It’s been billed as the ‘game ender,’ the book that lifts the lid on the systematic and institutionalized doping regime behind the US Postal Service team’s domination of the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong at the helm.

Read Hamilton’s book, reviews have exclaimed just weeks after the Texan decided not to contest the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) decision to strip him of his seven Tour titles, and it will be impossible to believe that Armstrong didn’t dope.

Put simply, the book lives up to the hype. Not only does it identify the illegal methods and substances behind Armstrong’s wins, it unveils a sport soaked in a culture of performance enhancing drugs through the lens of an entire sporting career.


Hamilton: dragged into a dirty world of doping, denial and duplicity

From Hamilton’s first encounters with doping as a wide-eyed and naïve neo-pro, through to his almost blasé use of a banned anti-depressant as he attempted to salvage the wreckage of his career following a two-year suspension for a blood transfusion, doping is an ever present normality for professional cyclists during the turn of the millennium.

The clarity and detail of Hamilton’s memory is quite remarkable. The lack of smudges or omissions tempts you to treat the narrative as a work of fiction until Daniel Coyle’s explanatory footnotes and interviews with former riders jolt you back down to earth.

Yet limiting the book to a chronicle of cheating misses the most intriguing element; the book is a profound assessment of Armstrong’s character, told through the turbulent crests and troughs of Hamilton’s complex relationship with his idol, mentor, friend, adversary, and bully.

What really gives the book its power, though, is that it is not just Hamilton’s version of events. It is an answer booklet to the questions and uncertainties that have swelled around cycling in recent months and years. In fact there is only one question it doesn’t answer.

Is it still possible to believe Armstrong didn’t dope?

Notes on a scandal: Tyler Hamilton on…

The UCI
Cover-ups, an unwillingness to catch dopers, and a more than cosy relationship between Armstrong and former president Hein Verbruggen; Hamilton is scathing of the UCI throughout the book.

As did Floyd Landis, he alleges that Armstrong tested positive for EPO during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, but that Armstrong “had meetings with people at the lab and it all went away.”

‘Hein’ (the two were on first name terms) was often at Armstrong’s beck and call. He even allegedly called Hamilton to the UCI’s headquarters for a meeting to discuss suspicious blood values on Armstrong’s instruction, after Hamilton beat Armstrong in the Mt Ventoux time-trial at the 2004 Criterium du Dauphine.

Floyd Landis
Routinely described as a ‘Mennonite kid,’ Hamilton sees Landis as a man of both conviction and resolve, in many ways an equal to Armstrong. He’s an oddball who questions the rules, skateboards into town and once drank 14 capuccinos in one sitting, but has a strong sense of what is right and wrong.

“What bothered Floyd wasn’t the doping. What he hated – what his soul raged against – was unfairness. The abuse of power. The idea that Lance was purposefully depriving Floyd of an opportunity to compete.” It’s poetic justice, for Hamilton, when Landis is the one who finally blows the whistle on Armstrong with his email to USADA.


Landis [left]: cappuccino-quaffing individualist

Beating the anti-doping authorities
Hamilton dismisses the ‘arms race’ between doctors and anti-doping authorities with tales of evading testers that are almost comical in their simplicity. Even assuming authorities could test for certain substances, jumping to the floor when a tester came to the door and you were ‘glowing’ (had used a banned substance recently enough to give a positive test) would delay the test by a day and give you enough time to fudge a whereabouts form and drink enough to flush out your system.

“If you were careful and paid attention, you could dope and be 99% certain that you would not get caught.”

Armstrong’s dictatorship of US Postal
One incident, where Armstrong ate three slices of chocolate cake at dinner one evening on a team training camp, stands out. As Armstrong chewed away the riders around the table looked nervously at each other; although an easy ride was scheduled for the following day, they all knew Armstrong would force the team to ride hard to burn off his transgressions.

Armstrong wasn’t just at the top of the team; he was the team.


Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc faces up to festina in ’98

Armstrong’s belief that he had the right to win
Armstrong, the strong character who had overcome cancer, was unable to deal with the possibility that he might not win a race, no matter how hard he worked.

“He couldn’t let go of this idea that he was destined to be champion,” says Hamilton, “and he couldn’t let go of the power that allowed him to control his performances so precisely.”

This accounts for Armstrong’s control of the team and his exceptional status at the top of the pile. Along with Johan Bruyneel and Dr Ferrari he maintained a total control over his numbers, his training, his equipment and his bubble of superiority.

Hamilton explains it through Armstrong’s motto: “whatever you’re doing, those f*****s are doing more.”

Doping after the Festina affair
After a Festina team soigneur, Willy Voet, was caught by French police with a car full of EPO and other doping products at the 1998 Tour, doping ceased to be on team programmes where vials of EPO would be stored on team buses and handed out after races.

Riders now had to take the much more risky and unpredictable route of sourcing their own substances, so Armstrong and Hamilton engineered a unique solution.

Armstrong’s French gardener, Philippe, followed the 1999 Tour on a moped equipped with a coolbox full of supplies for three riders: Armstrong, Hamilton, and fellow USPS rider Kevin Livingston. ‘Motoman,’ as the three called him, was able to zip through the traffic and deliver his packages of Edgar (their nickname for EPO) without delay and without capture.

The empty syringes would then be slotted into a Coke can, crushed up, and stuffed into the backpack of USPS’s Dr Del Moral before he walked off, an anonymous figure in the crowds, to dispose of it elsewhere.

Dr Eufemiano Fuentes
A debonair and ebullient Spanish doctor who ended up at the heart of Operation Puerto, Hamilton claims Bjarne Riis recommended Fuentes to him when he left USPS at the end of 2001. Fuentes and his assistant Bartres were to provide EPO, testosterone, and organise blood transfusions.

With code words and pre-paid phones, Hamilton’s relationship with Fuentes was fleeting and pragmatic. It worked, until Hamilton tested positive for a homologous transfusion in 2004: someone else’s blood was in his system.

It transpired that, although Hamilton had been transfusing his own blood (an autologous transfusion), Fuentes or Bartres may have mis-labelled bags of blood in their Spanish clinic as they froze them for storage – a complex and drawn-out procedure. Unbeknownst to Hamilton before Puerto was the true extent of Fuentes’ list of clients and Bartres, a septuagenarian haematologist at a Madrid hospital, was later revealed to suffer from dementia.

Altered Memories: A different perspective

Words: James Shrubsall

I have a confession: I enjoyed Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France reign immensely. While many saw the US Postal team, headed by the Texan, as slowly strangling the life out of the race, I saw it as a spectacular demolition.

Every year I looked forward to the first mountain stage, where the Blue Train would hit the front and take the field apart. An awesome display of power. We know now where it came from.

That Hamilton – whatever you might think of him – is telling the truth can no longer be in any reasonable doubt. For a start, the book is co-authored with respected writer Dan Coyle, who has been diligent in corroborating Hamilton’s claims. And Coyle includes his own commentary alongside Hamilton’s words, as well as interviews with other Postal riders.

What Hamilton describes, in an utterly matter-of-fact way, is a sport which is run through with doping like words through a stick of rock. A sport in which trying to contest a Grand Tour without blood doping would be nonsensical, unthinkable. Yes, The Secret Race is about Lance Armstrong, but it is more about Hamilton himself. What’s more, it is about CSC and Phonak, how doping was essentially institutionalised all the way up to Operacion Puerto.


Armstrong: tarnished icon

There is a poignancy to the first few chapters, as we read about the innocent young guy who simply wanted to race his bike, wasn’t interested in dope, or lies. Comparing Hamilton’s lot over the last few years – depression, more positives, ridicule, all but cast out of the sport, to Armstrong’s – rich beyond imagination, friends in the highest places, loved the world over, and you can’t help but feel sorry for Hamilton, who certainly did no worse than Armstrong.

But unlike with some cycling memoirs, there is no bitterness from Hamilton. Just a desire to get some very dark secrets off his chest – something he does so with complete clarity and apparent lack of agenda. He doesn’t even claim to feel a huge amount of guilt, except perhaps for deceiving his parents.

The Secret Race answers many questions, but it also throws up a new, unsavoury one. Namely, if cycling was so completely rotten, and so many of the same people are still in the sport – both as riders and management – how clean can it really be in 2012?

This article was first published in the September 20 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.

  • Stephen

    Congratulations Wayne on cutting through the chaff of this hype! Not much more to say and I won’t be feathering the beds of any so called whistle blowers who are cashing in now!

  • Ken Evans

    “What bothered Floyd wasn’t the doping. What he hated – what his soul raged against – was unfairness. The abuse of power. The idea that Lance was purposefully depriving Floyd of an opportunity to compete.”
    — Landis was kind of goofy, probably the only person that thought Landis was a superstar was Landis himself, Armstrong was a much more natural athlete, Landis will probably only be remembered in terms of USPS and Armstrong, and not his own riding. Armstrong made the Tour his only real race of the season, and made lots of preparations for it, Merckx in contrast just turned up to ride and left all the other riders for dead, no one could even follow his wheel. Merckx didn’t need a big doping programme, won many other races in a season, and didn’t sit on Hincapie’s wheel all day long.

  • John Airey

    Sav – you are seriously exaggerating the evidence to claim that a few photos and comments on a blog identify him. For a start that’s a motorbike not a moped and if the poster of that article has challenged the gardener he may have ruined a police investigation. Not one bit of “evidence” on that linked site supports Hamilton’s claims. In fact, Phillippe may have grounds for a defamation claim particularly the derogatory things he says about his financial position (which he couldn’t possibly know about).

    I’ve had my picture taken with professional cyclists does that mean I’m involved with drugs? Seriously this is really clutching at straws. I look forward to reading about something that would stand up in a criminal court, not a civil court since USADA claim to have evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

  • sav

    “I’m no great Armstrong fan, but this does sound like something from a work of fiction. ”

    Phillippe has been identified and all available evidence mirrors Hamilton’s claims.

    Check this link:

    http://berzin.blogspot.com/2012/09/motoman.html

  • Phil Riley

    Riders now had to take the much more risky and unpredictable route of sourcing their own substances, so Armstrong and Hamilton engineered a unique solution.

    Armstrong’s French gardener, Philippe, followed the 1999 Tour on a moped equipped with a coolbox full of supplies for three riders: Armstrong, Hamilton, and fellow USPS rider Kevin Livingston. ‘Motoman,’ as the three called him, was able to zip through the traffic and deliver his packages of Edgar (their nickname for EPO) without delay and without capture.

    The empty syringes would then be slotted into a Coke can, crushed up, and stuffed into the backpack of USPS’s Dr Del Moral before he walked off, an anonymous figure in the crowds, to dispose of it elsewhere.

    I’m no great Armstrong fan, but this does sound like something from a work of fiction.

  • Mike

    I see your point @Greg but they are not just selecting someone to take the blame. Armstrong, through his victories, yes, but more through his selfe built and constantly groomed media profile, became one of the bigest and richest sports stars of recent times. When we find out it was all built on cheating, lying and bullying it is only right and propper that he should be brought to book. It is also implied that the UCI were complicit in his evading or being absolved when testing positive. These may just be acusations, but they are so serious they need to be investigated.
    Marrion Jones was outed by the same people, lost her titles and spent time in prison, I believe, so its not just cycling.
    What we have to accept is that it is fraud, not just cheating. Top sports stars are paid a fortune for winning events and attract big sponsorship deals on the back of there winning profile.
    As they say……If something looks too good to be true, it usualy is. And so it was.

    It is riders like Boardman I feel sorry for. He was super tallented but could not compete in the Grand Tours. Now we know why. He was even denied use of a medicinal steroid for his chronic bone wasting illness by the Tour bosses, despite confirmation of the illness from two eminent doctors. Cant have people using prescribed medication can we? If he had just taken the testosterone without telling the authorities he would have been ok, and not had to retire so early. But that was/is Boardman, honest to the last. Could not see Armstrong or his ilk even contemplating that.

  • Wayne

    I dislike the way that Cycling Weekly have written about this book as if the word of one drugs cheat is automatically to be trusted against the word of someone yet to be convicted of anything, especially when he has timed the release of this book for maximum effect. Lance Armstrong may not be completely clean but that has to be decided by a court with real evidence and not by opinions, ‘experiences’ and the press.

  • Jack Ibbotson

    Just watched back some of the ’99 tour on you tube. Was proper ace racing regardless! Plus I liked the fact that bikes back then were pretty similar to what was available to the general public and were at a reasonable price. The top models today would equate to something like 4 months work at the rate of the average salary. Back then I managed to save for the same frame as what Polti (fausto coppi) were using with a saturday job!

  • ian franklin

    This is nothing about ‘killing the king’. Sadly, we could identify the chief protagonist in this sad affair as a ‘socio path’ as he demonstrates many of the traits that these people display. This includes, lying, cheating and bullying. His refusal to face arbitration is not because of the stated reason (ie I am sick of fighting) but because socio paths can not face the truth, do not understand the truth and their personality cannot be exposed in this way. So far better for socio paths in this position to blame others – in this case saying that he is a victim of a witch hunt. Believe me, my ex-wife suffers from the same disorder (sadly) and I have seen her pattern of behaviour as exactly parallel to the behaviours shown by the former Tour de France winner. How those who continue to support him (such as my ex colleague Phil Ligget) astounds me because his behaviour is so utterly transparent. I have read Hamilton and I respect the difficulty he had of finally admitting that he had lied for so many years. But at the same time I understand the fears – and especially those vested on him by the former Tour de France winner) which stopped him from coming clean. All I can say now is well done Hamilton – I hope other riders of your generation (and those remaining dopers of the current generation) just come out and admit. And I hope your bravery (and Millar’s et al) will encourage a breaking of the omerta. Thanks for the book Tyler.

  • Robert

    Greg Spurlock wrote: “if the sport as a whole is taking short cuts how is it only a few are be selected for punishment?”

    The reality is that for years many other riders HAVE been punished for doping whilst Armstrong was protected by the UCI. (Accepting a back-dated medical certificate when he tested positive for steroids, commissioning the Vrigman report to justify their lack of action when Epo was found in his 1999 Tour samples, arranging for his positive in the 2001 Tour of Switzerland to be buried and so forth.) He is being punished now because overwhelming evidence has come to light that he played a central part in the biggest doping conspiracy cycling has ever seen.

    As to others not beating Armstrong even though they were doping as well, that is why Armstrong paid Ferrari so much to manage his doping programme. Armstrong was in no way the best, and in all probability not even the hardest working rider. He simply had the best doping programme, one that could turn a rider who took three attempts to even finish the Tour de France, and who often lost the best part of half an hour on a mountain stage and over 6 minutes in a flat time trial, to someone who dominated the race.

    Richard Abraham and James Shrubsall wrote:

    “The Secret Race answers many questions, but it also throws up a new, unsavoury one. Namely, if cycling was so completely rotten, and so many of the same people are still in the sport – both as riders and management – how clean can it really be in 2012?”

    Good to see that some are starting to ask the right questions. The truth is that there is every reason to believe that the sport is still riddled with doping. Developments such as the bio-passport may have helped to curb some of the excesses of the past, but it is still possible to dope and to get away with it, and of course benefit from the huge advantages that doping provides. As people like Ashenden have pointed out, the racing might be cleaner but it is far from clean. Micro-transfusions along with intravenous injections of Epo in order to manipulate the riders blood reticulocyte level can still give riders a very worthwhile boost, especially in a stage race when the stresses would normally see a riders haemocrit level fall throughout the event.

    Meanwhile the ‘omerta’ is still solid with few riders speaking out. Wiggins is a good example of this, what with his transformation from someone who lost ‘an hour a day’ in the Tour into a winner being mirrored by his transformation from a rider who was vocally anti-doping and who said fans would be right to be sceptical about whether the winner of the Tour was clean for at least another 7 years into one who was strongly supportive of Armstrong, looked to him for advice and who said that anyone who remained sceptical about doping was a ‘f**ing w**ker’ and a ‘c**t’. Sorry given the history of bike racing fans need much more reassurance than that.

  • Greg Spurlock

    Keep in mind the authors expect to be paid well for their words. Consider a race where all the participants cut the corners running a shorter line than the official one, does the outcome change? Ok, we are talking drugs here and usage can have life long adverse effects and I completely understand the need to eliminate drug usage in sports. What I do not understand is if the sport as a whole is taking short cuts how is it only a few are be selected for punishment? The truth is we can not selection a single man or just a few men to serve the burdens of crime when the sport as a whole is bad. For do so makes use less than the crime we seek to correct. Sorry for the want-a-bes they did their best, with and without performance enhancements and still could not beat the man. For the want of love it becomes necessary to kill the king.