I remember the day like it was yesterday. I rushed home from the office so as not to miss a word. It was Thursday, January 17, 2013. The day Lance Armstrong admitted publicly to doping. It was a dark day. I had believed the lie. It was too good of a story. Cancer survivor wins 7 Tour de France titles. It was too good of a story. We all should have known better.
Don’t misunderstand. I am not a bike racer. I like to ride fast, but I am no racer. And, I don’t really follow the sport. However, as Armstrong began winning repeatedly, I would tune in to watch. And, I would encourage others to do the same. After all, this was excellence at its best.
I admire excellence. Excellence in all things, not just sports. So, understandably I was enthralled. You can understand my disappointment when he told Oprah Winfrey, and the rest of the world, that he was a cheater.
I have just read Tyler Hamilton’s book THE SECRET RACE. In it Hamilton confesses to having doped as part of the Postal team along with Armstrong. It details the extent of the doping problem in cycling and the lengths riders would go to hide their use of EPO and blood transfusions.
I am not certain why I haven’t read the book sooner. I knew of it, and watched Hamilton’s confession on 60 Minutes. Maybe I just didn’t want to believe it. Maybe this was a lie too. But I am glad I have read the book. It fills in all of the gaps, and completes the Lance Armstrong story.
The book was published before Armstrong’s public confession. He wouldn’t have come clean otherwise. He had no choice. Hamilton exposed the extent of the problem and brought Lance down.
THE SECRET RACE is a compelling read even if you are not a cyclist. It illustrates how you cannot believe what you read or hear on the news; how we as fans and spectators are manipulated by public figures – athletes, politicians, movie stars, musicians.
I applauded Tyler Hamilton for coming clean. It took a lot of courage. He lost his gold medal in the process, and the respect of many fellow racers at the time. Has the sport been cleaned up as a result? Perhaps. But I suspect the top cycling teams and their medical staff will always be one step ahead of the regulatory bodies and the testing methods. For some, winning is everything.