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Book of Revelation
During his years with the U.S. Postal Service team, Tyler Hamilton toiled as a kind of super-domestique for Lance Armstrong, chasing breakaways, pacing his leader up the mountains, sublimating his own ambitions to assure victory for the boss.
There was Hamilton last September, once again setting the table, not for Armstrong this time but for his archnemesis, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Hamilton's explosive memoir, The Secret Race, written with Daniel Coyle, is a stunning and sometimes sickening account of the doping pervasive in the pro peloton. Chiefly a chronicle of Hamilton's own dependence on testosterone, EPO and good old-fashioned blood doping throughout his career, the book also details—damningly—Armstrong's journey to cycling's dark side.
Five weeks after The Secret Race was released, USADA made public its "Reasoned Decision," a summary of the overwhelming evidence it had gathered, leaving little doubt that Armstrong doped throughout his career. If The Secret Race were an earthquake, flattening what remained of the Texan's credibility, USADA's "Reasoned Decision" was the tidal wave that swept it out to sea, never to be seen again.
While Hamilton's accounts of injecting EPO along with Armstrong are certainly sensational, the book serves another important role by explaining how even a principled rider could knuckle under and make the acquaintance of "Edgar"—USPS shorthand for EPO. Consider: What if Armstrong had given up the game five years ago? What if he'd gone on Leno, apologized and explained that he doped because he felt like he didn't have a choice?
There would've been a lot of schaudenfreude—the guy made plenty of enemies on the way up. But there would've been nods of understanding. He would've earned a large measure of forgiveness. He would have avoided the stunning, Shakespearean plunge awaiting him last October, when the sport's governing body, International Cycling Union (UCI), stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles; longtime sponsors such as Oakley, Trek and (et tu, Brute?) Nike threw him unceremoniously overboard; and he was forced to cut ties with his own cancer-fighting foundation, Livestrong.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was fond of observing, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." By flinging open the shutters on this sordid corner of sport, Hamilton and Coyle have helped force the ineffective, see-no-evil UCI to acknowledge the scope of its problem. In the end, that's more important than exposing a gigantic fraud.
Deny, Deny, Deny