To take off Miranda Priestly… another cycling book review from me, ground-breaking.
While everyone knows the story of Lance Armstrong and the doping charges brought against him, Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh is one of the best books I have read about the doping scandal in cycling.
Seven Deadly Sins opens with sports journalist David Walsh’s first interview with Armstrong in 1993, and leads the reader through the various doping scandals in cycling during the 1990s, Armstrong’s seven year dominance in the Tour de France, and the many allegations and investigations against Armstrong for doping.
However it is not just about one cyclist’s doping, it also investigates the circumstances which allowed the doping culture in professional road cycling to thrive; from the UCI’s complicity of ignoring certain test results to journalists refusing to investigate doping allegations.
There is a quote in one of the earlier chapters of the book which really opened my eyes to how journalists were complicit in the creation of the omerta culture in cycling as well, by acting as fan boys rather than investigative journalists:
“I wanted to tell him that the problems of the more recent past were in part down to journalists being too gullible. And to remind him of the role journalists and newspapers had played in the creation of the Tour de France… Journalists are sentimental creatures and the success of the Tour is built on emotion and memory.”
Armstrong was capable of manipulating the media to his side, it is clear from Walsh’s account that a lack of thorough media scrutiny allowed Armstrong to be able to cast doubt on anyone who accused him of doping.
It is overall a powerful piece of writing, filled out with interviews with many of the people, like Betsey Adreau and Emma O’Reilly, who spoke out against Armstrong. Amongst the most shocking part of the book are the accounts about how these people were harassed and intimidated into silence and in some cases, had entire careers destroyed by threats and innuendoes.
Parts of Seven Deadly Sins feels rushed towards the end, given the short period between Armstrong’s acceptance of the charges and the book’s publication, but that is a small issue given that this book is possibly Walsh’s magnum opus on Armstrong’s cycling career. It is a fantastic read and one I would recommend for any sports fan.