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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lance to Landis, 13 Feb. 2008
This review is from: From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France (Hardcover)
Midway through the third stage of the 1924 Tour de France, Henri Pélissier (winner of the 1923 Tour) abandoned. Journalist Albert Londres found him drinking hot chocolate at a train station restaurant. The interview Pélissier gave is still important. After explaining what the suffering racers endured he showed Londres the various pills and potions he took to both improve his performance and mitigate his misery. "We run on dynamite," he said.

Over the years the types of dynamite have changed. In the 1930s chemists synthesized amphetamines and racers soon learned how they could help and harm. Tom Simpson died in 1967 from the effects of dehydration, diarrhea and amphetamine overdose.

In the 1970s, the overuse of corticoids nearly killed 2-time Tour winner Bernard Thévenet. When he went public with his misdeeds, explaining that his use of steroids was the usual practice in the peloton, he received abuse from his sponsor, the public and his fellow riders.

In the 1990s EPO made doping necessary if a racer wanted to win. Riders like Marco Pantani and Bjarne Riis ran their hematocrits to a nearly lethal 60%. Any racer wishing to compete with these men and their like were forced to either stick the needle in their arms or retire. This is not just my guess. Many racers from that era (Andy Hampsten, for one) have gone public with how the sport was transformed by a drug that could dramatically improve a racer's power output.

Today, with a reliable test for EPO available, racers have gone on to new strategies, including old-fashioned blood doping. The best racers can spend over $100,000 a year on both the drugs and the technical expertise to avoid detection. Since this technology is so expensive, it is generally only the lower-paid lesser riders who get caught by dope tests.

That brings us to Walsh's book and the demand that he find a "smoking gun" before he levels any accusations. Smoking guns are almost impossible to find. In 1960, Tour de France doctor Pierre Dumas walked in on Gaston Nencini while he was calmly transfusing his own saved blood in his hotel room. That's not going to happen today because what Nencini was doing to win the 1960 Tour was not then illegal. Yet, Nencini was doing exactly what most doping experts think modern racers are doing, performing autologous (using their own saved blood for later injection) blood doping.

I urge any person concerned with the obvious problem of rampant doping in sports to read this book. Walsh isn't a sensationalist. He is a man who hates cheaters. This book is the result of his belief that Lance Armstrong, like almost all of the rest of the professional peloton, used banned performance-enhancing modalities. By necessity, he must build a circumstantial case, but that should not be a justification to reject his conclusions out of hand. I finished the book feeling that Walsh had had indeed made his case.

An old, retired Italian pro with close connections to the racers of today once sat me down and explained much about doping. He concluded by saying, "Bill, they are all dirty."

I would have liked Walsh to organize his information a little better. Still, that didn't keep this book from curling the hair on the back of my neck. Even those who fervently believe in Armstrong's innocence will learn much about modern professional cycling from this book.

- Bill McGann, Author of the Story of the Tour de France
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jan 2009 05:18:36 GMT
Tom Plum says:
This and other reviews are very helpful; it seems along with info on the web, like the investigate Lance website that a lot of this data is already available to the public to read. The book must mainly clear up details. Your review in itself is very informative.
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