I just finished The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton. Awesome book especially considering it came out ahead of Lance Armstrong’s confession. I think I speak for a lot of current and former competitive endurance athletes that never had any doubt that the majority of cycling racers during that era were doping.
It’s really interesting reading Hamilton, who most regarded as a genuine nice guy, detail his journey from being a clean athlete into total doper. The book doesn’t aim to make you feel sorry for him, but just simply understand how he arrived where he did.
Armstrong who by most accounts that I’ve read, and even two of my own personal experiences, is an abrasive egomaniac. Especially when you consider how much he aggressively tried to sell himself as a clean athlete and attacked those who challenged it. At some point during Lance’s career, he should have just stopped attacking his accusers and just said, “I have never tested positive on performance enhancers.” The accurate statement would have been boring and would probably have created a more sympathetic perception of him now.
Hamilton includes a couple fun analogies of guys being on EPO, “It’d be like you were in a weight room, and you saw a guy lifting an insane amount of weight, with one hand, and everyone acted like it was normal.”
Apparently he and Lance often yelled, “Not normal!” during races for guys that were racing abnormally well (I’ve adopted this phrase for fun moments with my 2 year old when something fun happens like a garbage truck knocks over a trash can — NOT NORMAL!)
One other thing that fascinated me was Hamilton’s discussion on weight. It was only for about half a chapter, but he says (I’m paraphrasing) , “I would rather have taken weight decline of 1-3% of his body weight over any performance enhancer!” The sad reality is that being really really thin, allows you to run/cycle really really fast. This creates a tough dilemma for a lot of amateur athletes and especially their coaches. It’s pretty easy to turn a blind eye to potential health concerns of an athlete while she’s crushing her competition.
“How can she be unhealthy, she’s doing great??”
Definitely worth reading for people who like sports, cycling, tough life choices, or even just conspiracies.