Summary of Walsh's From Lance to Landis
Posted on Sun Jul 01, 2007 at 11:44:27 AM EDT
[editor's note, by chris] This is comprehensive coverage of the Walsh book, including links to various responsive articles in the comments. Nice work Kevin!
David Walsh's book is a history of the mingling of European cycling culture (doping) and American cycling culture from the 1990s on. It weaves the story through the testimony and documentation provided by four doping cases. The book is well written, unfortunately, primary source material is not presented in footnotes or end-notes, and the breezy narrative format doesn't match the gravity of the information presented. In spite of that, this book will spark some discussions that might be useful in moving the sport forward.
I'm at the bookstore, looking for the VeloNews Tour guide, when I'm ambushed by another book that's been on my "don't buy" list since I heard it advertised: From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France. I wished to avoid it, because I'm a little tired in reading the stories about doping; it's a bit like driving past a car wreck--you don't want to look, but can't resist. I pick it up, read a couple paragraphs, get hooked, plunk the debit card down, and walk out of the store with a copy. The opening case hooked me, because I hadn't heard much about it: Greg Strock versus USA Cycling, former junior national team coach Rene Wenzel, and former senior national team coach Chris Carmichael. (Yes, that Chris Carmichael, the Tony Robbins of cycling coaches, and a former member of the vampire squad of the 1984 Olympics.)
The story relates how the young, talented Strock was introduced to doping in the European peleton of 1990 while riding in the Banesto development squad:
The next step, says Strock, went further. "I was told I needed an injection and was given one. As well as that I was given these vials and pills, approximately seven to ten days' worth that were to be taken each day in the case of the vials, and the pills twice a day. They were described to me as `a variety of pills and extract of cortisone.'
I got the impression that European cycling is irredeemably corrupt--that when a fresh faced teen goes on his first group training ride, he gets a club jersey, and then some creepy old soigneur comes up and injects pot belge into his temple. Apparently, the American cycling establishment was just as bad: The doping continued, and injections were performed by Wenzel and Carmichael.
Selecting an ampoule and a syringe, Carmichael inserted the needle into the ampoule, drew some liquid, and injected Strock in the upper part of the buttocks. Strock says he was told the injection was "extract of cortisone"
What could go wrong when you mix cycling coaches with medical procedures involving needles? Chronic illness. Greg Strock contracted an extreme form of human parvovirus.
The next case that Walsh discusses is SCA Promotions versus Lance Armstrong. If you've been a cycling fan for more than a couple of years, you've heard it all before in drips and drops from different sources. Walsh elaborates the details of the case, relying mostly on Emma O'Reilly's and Betsy Anrdreu's stories, calls bullshit on the Discovery Channel propaganda about Lance's superhuman physiology, and frames it within the context of the SCA lawsuit.
In a nutshell, SCA is a company that's like an insurer (or bookie) for sports contracts. They structured a deal to pay bonuses if Lance Armstrong won one or more Tours. He won seven, but they didn't pay up, since they heard Lance was a cheatin' dopah. Armstrong sued them to get his cheese. Since most of the evidence available at the time was circumstantial, Lance won. (According to the NPR story: "A panel of arbitrators ultimately ruled in Armstrong's favor. SCA was forced to pay the $5 million bonus, plus $2.5 million more. SCA contends it lost because the bonus contract was poorly written, and not because SCA failed to prove Armstrong had cheated by using banned substances.")
After reading what O'Reilly and Andreu had to say, reading the Vaughter/Andreu IM transcript, and the revelations of Operation Puerto, Basso, and Ullrich I'd have to have my head pretty far up my ass to think Lance was clean.
But what does that mean? We all need to chew on the cycling history of the 90s to make sense of it. Yep, they ALL doped and 99% of them lied about it. The teams, riders, doctors were guilty and the media were
Next in line in the book is Tyler. I don't believe Tyler. Nobody needs to flog Tyler anymore.
Finally, Walsh wraps up the book with a discussion of the Floyd. He presents arguments for and against Floyd's Testosterone guilt. The most interesting thing in the Floyd chapter is a few new lines from the infamous Vaughters/Andreu IM transcript:
Though I'm weary of dopage, dopage, dopage, I think the sport is finally bottoming out. Hopefully, this book will spark some discussions that might be useful in moving the sport forward.
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