The Bald Biker’s Book Review: THE SECRET RACE Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs


Tyler Hamilton doped and he lied about it.

Now he’s one of the most honest men in cycling.

Hamilton’s new book THE SECRET RACE Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs lays bare the systematic doping programs that have existed at cycling’s top level for years.

If you are looking to the book as a “tell all”, yes it’s all there. He details the shadowy world of team owners, soigeurs, doctors and athletes and he names names. Michele Ferrari, Bjarne Riis and yes, Lance Armstrong. They’re all there.

But there’s more to the book than his allegations toward Armstrong, of which there are many. The Secret Race gives insight into the mind of a doper. Why athletes choose to cheat, how they justify that decision and the burden of guilt they carry until they decide to come clean should they ever choose or be forced to.

In his book (co-written by Daniel Coyle who wrote “Lance Armstrong’s War”), Hamilton explains the feeling of helplessness his US Postal Service team felt arriving on European shores only to learn that without doping there would be no hope in being competitive. Without results, riders don’t get contracts and teams don’t attract sponsors. Hamilton explains that racing clean you felt cheated and doping was the only way to level the playing field.

After justifying the decision to start using performance enhancing drugs and manipulating his hematocrit levels Hamilton begins to participate in a doping program that was originally administered by his US Postal team with the responsibility eventually shifting to the rider after the Festina affair. Hamilton explains the methods and code words used to carry out the practice. EPO is named “Poe” or “Edgar”, blood bags are “BBs”, syringes and needles are hidden in coke cans and doping products are transported by a shadowy man on a motorcycle known only as “Motoman”. Very cloak and dagger.

Hamilton also illustrates in great detail how cyclists manage to keep a step ahead of the sports officials and drug testers and how certain cyclists if caught were able to make deals with the UCI to have positive tests quashed.

In the book Hamilton claims that “everybody gets popped” and that includes himself. When a blood transfusion goes awry, Hamilton ends up with someone else’s blood in his system, gets ill and tests positive. Like others before and after him he denies the charges, lies to the public and tries to carry on as a professional cyclist.

Eventually as we all know, Hamilton has to come clean under oath in a federal investigation.

He’s also had to come clean to his family and friends. Now in his book, he’s coming clean to the world and in doing so he may be doing the sport of professional cycling a great favour. Like David Millar, like Floyd Landis and like Jonathan Vaughters he’s admitting what we’ve all known deep down. Doping was rampant and accepted. If the sport cannot admit to its’ past, perhaps it can never move forward as a clean sport.

It’s a fascinating read into the mind of someone faced with serious choices and consequences.

THE SECRET RACE is published by Random House.


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