It’s hard to know how to categorise David Walsh’s curiously titled book, Seven Deadly Sins*, about Lance Armstrong’s career as a doper-cyclist. Sports book, obviously: he memorably quotes another writer as describing sportswriters as being like the piano players in a bordello, and Walsh makes his living as Chief Sports Writer on the Sunday Times. Memoir partly, because Walsh was himself at the heart of the pursuit of Armstrong, a co-author of the French language L.A.Confidentiel which put many of the claims about Armstrong into the public domain (to the extent that the libel laws permitted) in 2004, and he was name-checked by Oprah in her interviews with Armstrong in early 2013.
It’s something more as well, something halfway between confessional and ‘I told you so’, because it takes a certain kind of craziness to stay with a story for fourteen years, especially when it’s damaging your reputation – not least because your target is taking frequent potshots at you – and even your closest friends are telling you it’s time to lay off the Lance stuff for a while for your own good.
This is a story about cycling, to be sure, and a well-written one, and every cycling fan should read it to understand how deep in the mire their sport was in the late 1990s and much of the 2000s, and how compliant the governing body, the UCI, was in all of that (of which, more later).
But it’s also a story about power and its discontents, about journalism, and about whistle-blowing – what makes people decide to do the right thing even when it comes with a heavy personal cost. The rest of this long post follows after the fold. Read the rest of this entry »