Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Book Review - Wheelman by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell

Wheelmen : Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the greatest sports conspiracy ever by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell

New York: Gotham Books, 2014                               ISBN  9781592408887

Those few people who read my blog will know that I have an interest in cycling as a sport, and have read a few of the books  that have covered the doping scandals that have beset the sport since the '80s.

If you've been following the Lance story at all, there is not much new in Wheelmen, but it is a solid re-telling of the main points in fairly standard journalese. As a rehash of a lot of work done by others it works well, beginning with Lance's early years, and the early years of pro-cycling in the USA.

Given it's recent publication date, Wheelmen does bring the story up-to-date with the latest actions against Lance and the state of play with Floyd Landis and his suit against Armstrong.

The Lance saga is a fascinating modern morality tale - a confirmation of the idea (first elaborated by Goebbels?) that if you are going to lie, make it a big one, as that is more likely to be believed. A moral point lost on Armstrong was to not burn your co-conspirators, as they can bring you down, which is ultimately what happened. Lance's one big mistake was to help in the downfall of other cyclists such as Hamilton and Landis, to the point where they had little more to lose, and possibly something to gain, by being honest. Their testimony opened up what until then had been small repairable chinks in the Armstrong armour, and they signalled the opening of the floodgates that led to Lance finally admitting to what he had denied for so long. Unfortunately for Armstrong, his hubris had led him to deny the truth under oath, and this has come back to haunt him as well, in the loss of most of his fortune, a process that continues even now.

Of course for the big lie to work for so long, you need to have some big allies, and it seems that the UCI were complicit in Lance's flouting of doping rules - Armstrong made it clear they had a lot to lose if he went down, and they went along with that theory, until it all became too hot to handle. The UCI link to the Lance saga is touched upon in Wheelmen, but better dealt with by David Walsh, who's works are a key source for Albergotti and O'Connell.

There is bound to be more to play out in not only the Lance saga, and the story of doping in cycling. As an introduction and updated source for where it all stands today, Wheelmen is a good place to start.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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