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Breaking The Chain: Drugs and Cycling - The True Story [Paperback]

Willy Voet
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Jun 2002

On 8 July 1998 Festina team soigneur Willy Voet was stopped by the police. In his car were the drugs the team needed if they were to have any chance of playing a competitive part in the 1998 Tour de France. The car was searched, he was immediately arrested and so the story that has been undermining the sport of cycling since the death of Tommy Simpson in 1967, finally broke.

Imprisoned for sixteen days, sacked from the Festina team and ostracised from the sport to which he had dedicated his life, Willy Voet at last was able to tell the truth. His sensational story will change cycling forever.

Cocaine, amphetamines, EPO, heroin - all these are now considered not optional but necessary, not to win but just to compete in the Tour de France. Details of how these drugs are obtained, mixed together to make cocktails, administered and concealed are all included in this graphic and uninhibited account of how drugs brought cycling to its knees.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey; New Ed edition (6 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224061178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061179
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The publishing of Breaking the Chain must surely rub salt into cycling's ugly wounds. The sport is still reeling from the explosion of controversy that was sparked by the arrest of Team Festina backroom staff member Willy Voet and his cargo of narcotics, on the Franco-Belgian border on July 8, 1998. The subsequent police investigation uncovered a drugs scandal that destroyed that year's Tour de France but Voet sensationally claims in Breaking The Chain, endemic cheating has been at the heart of the sport for years.

Voet's role as team "pharmacist"--ferrying and administering the cocktails of performance-enhancing drugs--made him the invisible hand that shaped the fortunes of one of the sport's most successful teams and he spares little detail in relating how it was done. Step-by-step guides to the business of "charging" on amphetamines and testosterone, administering mid-race injections and the secrets of beating the dope tests, are revealed for the first time.

.You slip the part of the tube fitted with the condom up the backside, inject clean urine up the tube ... cork it and stick it to the skin following the line of the perineum as far as the testicles ... this system was never bettered ... I used it for three years without any worries.

This is an astonishing story and Voet's is an amusing, candid voice--strong on the thrills of cheating and on the horrors of being caught--but given the ongoing investigations, and that fact the Voet, along with other senior members of the Festina team, is living under the cloud of a suspended prison sentence, it is hard to gauge whether the author's version of events has itself been "doctored". He names specific individuals related to the Festina case but protects the identities of other cheats that he claims operated on the pro circuit and it remains to be seen whether the full story of the scandal has now been told. --Alex Hankin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A truly horrifying book" (Time Out)

"The most vivid insight into the realities of a sport in which illegal drug use is not only tolerated, but a mundane fact of life" (Observer)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking but a great read. 29 Oct 2001
By John Peter O'connor VINE VOICE
Willy Voet worked for many years as a soigneur for some of the world's top professional road racing teams. A soigneur is a person who takes care of other people and that is just what Willy did. Making sure that everyone had the right food, massage regime and drugs.
In 1998, he was arrested as he entered France with the supply of drugs to be used by the Festina team in that year's Tour de France. At first, the French thought that they had picked up another drug dealer bringing back supplies from the Netherlands but when they realised the true significance of their find, the consequences for the tour were severe.
The 1998 tour was almost scrapped and serious damage was done to the reputation of the event, the teams and cyclists. Voet himself was briefly imprisoned and then kicked out of the sport which was quite prepared to sacrifice him as a single rotten apple. That led directly to this book in which Voet tells of his own experiences of the drug taking within the world of professional cycling.
The scope of those revelations is shocking indeed. Not just the fact that drug taking occurred but the degree to which it spread across the whole sport and the lengths to which teams went to ensure that riders had the best set of drugs for their individual needs and the measures taken to prevent the riders from testing positive for banned substances. If you want to know exactly how to give a sample of somebody else's urine when stripped and made to give that sample in the presence of a doctor, read here.
The book has it's lighter moments too. The rider caught because the mechanic, who had provided the specimen that the rider later produced, had been taking amphetamines.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking, Depressing, Gripping 23 July 2001
Willy Voet's book tells two stories: the run-up to and events surrounding his arrest just before the 1998, interspersed with anecdotes from 30 years of bike racing. The former is fairly well-known, but the latter opens your eyes to the practices apparently endemic in the European peloton.
He describes personally "charging" as a junior so that he would race well in front of his family, and goes on to describe many of the tricks used to outwit the doping controls. Some of these tricks were sneaky, some sound painful, and some just depended on the laissez-faire attitude of the authorities. He goes on to ask how these can be the same authorities who now claim to be trying to clean up the sport.
He does name names, although in a matter-of-fact way (as they were merely the riders he was responsible for) rather than in a shock-horror-exposé way.
Cycling journalist William Fotheringham's translation is excellent, although he has had to shy away from some names, I presume for legal reasons. If your French is good enough, buy the original version from and read it directly after the English one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Willy Voet 10 Jun 2003
By r2d2
If you can read some french get the original and a dictionary.
I read it when it fisrt came out, in between watching the tdf in the alps, which gave it more impact.
yes its not written brilliantly, but reads more like the man telling his story, rather than trying to make it into a hollywood movie!
it incriminates some very famous cyclists and makes you wonder to what level doping is currently happening in sport.
recommended to anyone interested in cycling/ athletics etc.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drugs in Cycling - The true story. 10 May 2001
Willy Voet, former FESTINA soigneur. His own account of his arrest and his experience of drug use in the professional pelton. He is particulary explicit in his descriptions of how, what and where banned drugs were used, revealing a world where not just the athletes are using performance-enhancing substances but there support crews too. Whatever your stand-point on drugs, you cant help but feel a degree of fascination as Voet discusses what each drug does, how they work, and the lenghts that riders and there doctors took to conceal drugs are often grimly comic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shocking to the uninformed 7 Mar 2010
A tell all from a proponent of doping who was caught is not the same as coming clean. Far from it in fact so one must read Willy Voet's book with that in mind. He would probably still be providing drugs to riders today if he hadn't have been caught. Having said that the book is a scarily frank (although not completely repentant) account of the systematic doping that more than likely still pervades cycling today (too a lesser extent).

In short (it is a short book), eye opening even to someone who has read nearly every book on doping in cycling. Worth the money anyway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sports, Money, Drugs... 5 Jun 2001
It is clear from the outset that the author is not a professional writer, but his story is compelling, if not chilling. Cycling, at least professional cycling outside of the USA, is a big money sport. With all the money on the line, it is not surprising that everyone is looking for an edge over their competition.
The surprising thing is that these througbred cyclists, who will depend on their bodies for a living, wind up putting totally unknown substances into their bodies (i.e., "Belgian Mix") with no idea about the long or short term effects. And that is just the cyclists themselves. The book implicates the entire team structure.
Are there "clean" riders in the pelethon and on the podium? Surely there are. However, if you are struggling to hang on for the purpose of staying in the sport the lure of that chemical assist is enticing.
I am saddened, but not surprised, by the content of this book. I don't expect these folks to be perfect, I could never achieve what they have achieved. However, the culture of winning at all costs has gone beyond all recognizable limits.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars can't put this down
I literally can't put this book down, after buying a few cycling books I bought this and I can't put it down. Read more
Published 2 months ago by gordon armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Book Fascinating
This book is compulsive - it kept my complete interest - could not put it down, it is shocking, a no hold barred account
Published 3 months ago by Derrick Tapscott
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This is a brilliant read that you wont want to put down, the real truth of all the kept secrets and dirt about cycling.
Published 4 months ago by Mark Griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars A sport on drugs
What is most shocking about Willy Voet's story is how far the rot in cycling did go, not only in the peloton itself, but also among the support staff: the mechanics, the soigneurs... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Iver
4.0 out of 5 stars Cycling and Doping.
Well what you see is what you get. The intricacies of the deep dark world of cycle racing and drug taking cyclists. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. Margaret A. Golby
5.0 out of 5 stars An evacuation of the guts of cycling
For those whom have never heard of Willy Voet, he was the soigneur caught with a boot load of drugs. Read more
Published 5 months ago by D. Bowtell
5.0 out of 5 stars A bitter man?
Apparently at the time this book was written Lance Armstrong said, "Willy Voet is full of ****!"; he went on to say that as long as Willy did not identify him he would not pursue... Read more
Published 7 months ago by SideBurn
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything You May Have Come To Suspect...
Stark, honest, insightful. This a warts and all explanation of historical practices relating to use of drugs in cycling, irrespective of any 'rules'. Read more
Published 8 months ago by I. Collinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A very honest tell all account of Willy Voet's career.
It reads more like a group of anecdotes rather than a chronological story but the anecdotes are jaw dropping. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Gareth
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opener
Willy really opens your eyes as to the behind the scenes drug and blood abuse in cycling for both the cyclists themselves and everyone in the team. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Oliver Bell
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