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Format: Format Kindle
This e-book will help you understand how the Lance Armstrong story unfolded in the eyes of David Walsh, The Sunday Times (of London) journalist who doggedly pursued allegations of Armstrong's doping the past 15 years. Recently, as the evidence about Armstrong's doping activities mounts, there has been a parallel examination about why the press (especially the US press) was so gullible in believing the Lance Armstrong creation myth. Amid all the finger-pointing and confessions, most accounts credit David Walsh with being the single-most important journalist in the English-speaking world in breaking news about Armstrong and keeping doubts alive regarding his racing history.
Since this book is a collection of newspaper articles, starting in 1999 and continuing up to November 2012, there is some repetition as each successive story retells what has been known up to that point. It's perhaps best read as an accounting of "what did we know, and when did we know it," as Walsh, and his colleagues, tried over the years to peel back the layers of secrecy bit by bit. Few other reporters were willing to take up the story. David Walsh is generous in his credit to a handful of French journalists who broke important stories in the mid 2000's, but even some of them stopped writing about cycling, disgusted with the sport's refusal to clean up. For much of the time Walsh was nearly alone; other journalists were skeptical but didn't devote the time or resources to uncover the facts. Perhaps the most damning quote in this e-book is this: "The good thing about investigating Armstrong was that there weren't many rivals trying to beat you to the story." In fact, Walsh reveals, a couple of his most important tips leading to important sources were provided by other journalists who knew they couldn't or wouldn't pursue the story for their own publications.
Probably the best parts of the book are the beginning and the end. The first few stories are Walsh's depiction of Lance Armstrong's early Tour de France victories. At the time, the Tour was claiming it was going to transform itself following the shocking Festina doping scandal of 1998, and Walsh wanted to tell that story. But he found Armstrong's win in 1999 to be simply unbelievable. Without any specific evidence -- other than knowing smirks and shrugged shoulders from those in the know -- Walsh wrote of a peloton that raced at two speeds: "normal" racing speeds, for teams that had apparently dropped doping from their training regimes, and "superhuman" for teams that were still, more than likely, using banned substances. In retrospect, it's impressive how accurate Walsh was in his perceptions of what was going on, even though he had no proof.
The middle part of the book has a series of stories that recount the unfolding of the Armstrong story as Walsh and a few colleagues accumulate some hard facts: the positive test for steroids, which was "explained away" by a back-dated prescription; the confession by a former Armstrong teammate from the Motorola team; and eyewitness accounts from a team assistant, Emma O'Reilly, and Betsy Andreu. These stories become the core evidence provided in Walsh's co-written book "LA Confidentiel," released in France but resulting in a large libel judgment against his employer when the allegations were summarized in The Sunday Times (the newspaper story that resulted in the libel judgment is included in this book). This part of "Lanced" suffers a bit because the revelations themselves were "revealed" in Walsh's prior book, not in the newspaper stories -- so the newspaper stories reprinted here are summaries of the revelations, not the breaking news itself. It's as if during this part of "Lanced" the "action" is occurring offstage, and this is a description of what's being revealed elsewhere.
The tale picks up pace and interest toward the end of this e-book. Walsh himself was not so instrumental in the fast-moving events of the past two years, as a flood of eyewitness testimony against Armstrong has emerged as a result of a US federal investigation that led to the public confessions of former teammates like Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, and Jonathan Vaughters. But the stories that Walsh continued to write are some of the most interesting of the book, because of his long-term perspective on the evolving saga. He re-interviews his sources, talks with Landis and Hamilton about their decisions to confess, and retells the story of what it was like to try to understand Armstrong's career in the early years, before EPO and blood doping turned him into a superstar. To close the book, he re-interviews Emma O'Reilly and Betsy Andreu, and recounts the pressures they have lived under since speaking out publicly against Armstrong nearly a decade ago.
If you are new to the Armstrong story, this is probably not the easiest place to start. The best and most easily read version of the Armstrong era of dopoing is Tyler Hamilton's book, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs. Another great read is the 200-page USADA investigative report on Armstrong, published in October 2012 and available on the USADA's website for anyone who cares to read it (also posted are the affidavits from 11 former Armstrong teammates who have confessed to their own doping and describe Armstrong as a ringleader of doping activities on their team). For an in-depth version of what Walsh knew back in the mid 2000's, read his book From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France, which incorporates most of what was published in "LA Confidentiel," plus some additional detail. But if you've already absorbed the outlines of the Armstrong story, then this e-book is a great companion explaining the role Walsh played in bringing this fraud to light. (And, coming soon -- a new eBook by Walsh, Seven Deadly Sins)
Two problems with this book itself - there are numerous typos and capitalization mistakes in this book; it was apparently put together in haste without a lot of editing. More importantly, the table of contents is very poor. Since this is a collection of newspaper stories about a long-running investigation, it would be much better to include the dates of the various articles that are included in this book. As it is, the table of contents only includes the title of each article, which isn't very helpful. It also would have benefited greatly from a simple one- or two-page timeline recounting major dates and events in Armstrong's career, his tour victories, and the various investigations into his doping activities.