Book Recommendation: ‘The Secret Race’

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For one of my classes we’re reading a lot about Lance Armstrong and doping in cycling (oddly, not much about it in other sports), so I re-read one of my favorite books on the topic, “The Secret Race.”

Yes, there’s a lot that’s been said on the subject by a lot of people with varying degrees of nuance and sophistication. Out of all that, I would add to my general list of readings I find interesting about cycling and doping: “From Lance to Landis” and the whole USADA investigation. But, “The Secret Race” is still one of my favorites and one of the most detailed descriptions of how things were in professional cycling of a certain time (and still are to a degree I’m sure). Doping is a part of how things were, a large part, but it is not the only part. Losing stupid crazy amounts of weight is a pretty big part too. Oh, and training.

The main reason this doesn’t read to me like just another professional athlete tell-all raking in the money from their own misdeeds is because Daniel Coyle, who wrote the book with/for Tyler Hamilton, is a good writer and a good reporter. He confirms facts and puts in rare footnotes what other information you might need as a reader. The other important reason is that I don’t think Tyler Hamilton is necessarily trying to cash in. I think he’s trying to make a confession of sorts, a coming clean, etc. I think he feels really bad about the lying, but not as much about the choices he made in the first place. Which is interesting. I mean it doesn’t take a psych student to watch his 60 Minutes interview and know that he was wrestling with a lot of demons.

If you really are interested in the sport and in sports, in the questions of how to address doping, instead of just depicting the problem as an individual problem, which makes it easy to dismiss as a moral failing instead of examine as a systemic failing, if you’re really truly interested with an open mind, then I’d suggest reading the book.

At one point, in passing, Hamilton writes/dictates-to-the-writer that he’s known some great guys who decided to dope and some really shitty ones who didn’t. And that’s probably true.

Books You Should Read: Cycling and Doping

What with it being the holidays, people are constantly making small talk with me. And, one of their all-time favorite topics is: ‘Hey, so what do you think about Lance?’

Which, like, I have quite a few opinions about Lance and doping in sports and what it means to be a professional athlete, but it’s not really a conversation I feel like having with people who don’t actually want to have that conversation and just want say, “Oh my god, it’s terrible, I am SHOCKED” over and over.

If you are interested in the topic, though, and want something to read while you’re stuck at family get-togethers or in a cabin in the mountains, these are all good looks into the world of cycling and doping and professional sports:

  • The Secret Race – Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
  • Lance Armstrong’s War – Daniel Coyle (great book)
  • Positively False – Floyd Landis (even if some of it’s lies, not all of it is)
  • The Doper Next Door – Andrew Tilin (Steve’s pick)