Former professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who rode with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong from 1998 to 2001, has been making headlines recently with his new book, “The Secret Race,” which he co-wrote with author Daniel Coyle. And while none of the book’s allegations about Armstrong’s use of performance enhancing drugs are anything new, according to Bike and Paved magazines’ editor, Joe Parkin, what the book does offer is a unique and extremely detailed look into a world that “few people outside of professional cycling have ever seen or even dreamed of,” Parkin said.
Parkin would know; before he became an editor he was a pro cyclist, and he’s ridden against many of the sport’s greats, including Armstrong, three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, and five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain.
“One of the big things about the book is that, for people who have any sort of interest at all in cycling, is the culture of doping that has been going on for so many years as part of the sport–the detail in which he explains things, like the actual administering of the doping products, and the clandestine meetings on strange street corners–all that kind of spy stuff,” Parkin said.
This doping culture that Hamilton alleges in his book is one of “rocket science,” Parkin said.
“I think it’s important that people realize that cycling 30, 40 years ago, it was a European sport, the doping that was going on during the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, it was really lowbrow–amphetamines, testosterone, cortisone. There were masking agents here and there. As strange as it may seem, anyone could afford that, anyone could afford amphetamines. It was cheap. Anyone who had a doctor, and a lot of people who didn’t, could get testosterone and cortisone. Like it or not, doping was part of the sport and doping control couldn’t test for those very well. … But then you move into this era where it’s rocket science. These drugs that Tyler talks about in the book–micro-doping, minute amounts of blood-boosting products so they wouldn’t test positive–pretty soon, now you have this whole war of the haves and have-nots. It’s the rich riders who can afford to get better and better, where the not-so-fortunate riders are not able to really be on the same playing field. I think that’s actually something that’s pretty interesting [about the book],” Parkin said.
Of course, no matter what the book alleges, Armstrong fans can always claim that Hamilton lacks credibility, given he is a known drug cheat, having tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2004 and 2009. “I think people who have it in their mind that Lance is innocent, and why are we dragging him through the mud, and look at all the good things he’s done for cancer, they’re not necessarily going to be swayed by the book,” Parkin said.
Photo, top, courtesy amazon.com; photo of Armstrong, bottom, courtesy Getty, Savi