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In pursuit of Lance Armstrong: A chronicle of cycling’s greatest fraud

Jonathon Gatehouse reviews Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh


 

What the Great White Whale was to Captain Ahab, Lance Armstrong is to author David Walsh. To suggest the Irish sportswriter was obsessed with cycling’s greatest fraud doesn’t do it justice. The relationship between pursuer and quarry was closer to folie à deux. Walsh spent 13 often-very-lonely years trying to convince the world of what he believed was painfully obvious—St. Lance was a cheat. And Armstrong expended just as much energy trying to discredit, humiliate and destroy him.

A journalist with the Sunday Times, Walsh had been covering the Tour de France for a decade when he first met Armstrong in 1993. Initially, he liked and admired the painfully blunt and nakedly ambitious Texan. But when Armstrong returned to cycling’s greatest test in 1999, after his near-fatal brush with cancer, he was clearly a different man: thinner, meaner and much, much better. In four previous Tours, the American had been a threat on the flats, but never in the time trials or climbs (over nine career mountain stages, his best finish was 39th.) Now suddenly he wasn’t just competitive, but unbeatable, laying down scorching rides that eclipsed the feats of men who had already been exposed as dopers. That year, on his way to his first of seven yellow jerseys, Armstrong even failed an in-race drug test. (It was explained away with the help of his doctors and the UCI, cycling’s governing body.) Walsh knew the story didn’t add up, and he earned Armstrong’s eternal ire by pointing it out.

But that’s really just the starting point of Seven Deadly Sins, which chronicles more than a decade of incremental discoveries, denial and enabling. Walsh paid a heavy price for his doggedness—publicly vilified, ostracized by many of his compatriots and forever awash in legal actions. Although, as he describes, many of his sources had it much worse: there were no ends to which Armstrong wouldn’t go to protect his empire.

The book is a victory lap, and as the title suggests, as much about the author as the subject. But Walsh’s engaging and wry style makes even the rehashed aspects of the story well worth the trouble. And for sports fans, and in particular writers, Seven Deadly Sins should stand out for its lesson: if something seems too good to be true, it almost invariably is.

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In pursuit of Lance Armstrong: A chronicle of cycling’s greatest fraud

  1. A change of sports would do you good. NES convinced me a rundown is the most excitiing MLB baseball play. I wonder what rule changes would initiated more rundowns, if only for international tourneys? A two yard bonus out of the red-zone, for a succesful lateral, would be better American Football.

  2. History will not be kind to Lance Armstrong. He needs to look into the mirror and take a look at the person that created his downfall. He has much to answer for and much to answer to…..

  3. I loved Armstrong, Simona

  4. There are plenty of people who, in spite of the mounting evidence against Lance Armstrong, still side with this manipulative sociopath. They are devoid of a moral compass just like this monster.

    • seriously? they were all doping, but lance is a monster? he is being made the fall guy. period. contador, shlecks, all the other top riders were/are doping.

  5. He is a disgraced cheater who is trying to make it look it’s not a big deal. Typical Tex….

    • I forgot to mention …..armstrong = born LOOSER!!

      • um, that would be spelled loser, its called spell check for a reason

    • when did he make it look like its not a big deal?

  6. When I think about what happened to Lance, my mind goes to Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods and even Jim Bakker (remember him?). Together, they inspired me to write this essay: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-3y

  7. Its funny, all of you bashing lance armstrong, how many of you actually follow the sport, or even care about it? how did lance’s downfall affect you to the extent that you rant and rave about how he is a monster, has no moral compass. how about taking a look at yourself and checking your moral compass. you put your hopes and dreams and diehard belief in a person you dont even know, and he has a fall from grace and you are all devastated? shame on you for putting him on such a high pedestal. Trust me when I tell you, if all of the major sports were tested as much as cycling, a lot of your “hero”s would come crumbling down. 90% of athletes are doing some sort of peds, etc. FACT

  8. I read all this rubbish people write about Lance Armstrong and how evil he is and I shake my head. Have you actually followed cycling? Did Lance cheat, of course he did, but so did every other contender. Most of the past greats of cycling have admitted to taking PED’s. I am not condoning Lance but lets put things in perspective. Our society has created this win at all costs attitude especially in the US so please give me a break on the self righteous pontification. Hitler was evil Lance is just a man.

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