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VINE VOICEon 29 October 2001
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. Another rider who was prepared to buy a dose of rocket fuel, contents unknown, from a stranger who promised that he could win a stage.
Voet's motivation in writing this book is, at least in part, to justify himself by explaining that he did nothing that was not common practice throughout the sport. As such, some will doubt his veracity but he does not mince his words. He names names and gives considerable detail and yet nobody is queuing up to sue him for defamation.
The book does not pretend to be a far reaching survey or to tell the whole story. The author simply writes about his personal involvement in and knowledge of the field. William Fotheringham's translation is very good indeed. He writes fluidly and clearly understands what he is working on. Together, the two men have produced a fascinating book which is really an essential read for anyone interested in cycling or the effects of drugs on sport in general.
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on 19 March 2017
Not sure the intended overall message with the book. I think it's meant to be anti doping and I understand that. The cavalier nature of the writing is hard to stomach but I appreciate the authors intelligence and regret nevertheless. For a reader who works in professional cycling I would every much like to believe the world has changed since 1998 and it's certainly my optomisim in a changing sport that young impressionable lives are not at risk. in conclusion I suppose I can interpret the authors intent also......perhaps.
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on 14 April 2017
Reading this now after all the drug scandals means that non of this surprising. What was a massive scandal is now pretty small fish vs Armstrong but still a good insight.
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on 16 June 2017
A good read exposing the endemic issue of cheating within cycling. With hindsight it does throw a huge shadow over the sport even now which is a trade by.
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on 6 January 2013
I love reading books on cycling, esp juicy ones like this, about 'le tour'.
Worth the money. definitely would recommend.
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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 www.amazon.fr and read it directly after the English one.
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on 10 June 2003
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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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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on 7 March 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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on 5 June 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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