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on December 17, 2012
This "story behind the stories" is David Walsh's personal account of pursuing evidence of Lance Armstrong's doping over the years, both as a writer for The Sunday Times of London and as author/co-author of two prior books about Armstrong. There isn't much about cycling here, nor is this the detailed expose about Armstrong. It's more narrowly a story about Walsh, his perspective, and how he tracked down and developed relationships with the most important sources for his stories about Armstrong.

Walsh deserves tons of credit for being the lead skeptic over the years about Lance Armstrong, and this book makes clear how much criticism and ostracism he faced from athletes and fellow journalists. Unfortunately, in what appears to be a bit of a rush to get this book to market, we're left with only part of the story. Another e-book collecting Walsh's own newspaper stories has already been published, and you won't find those reprinted here. In fact, if you're not already intimately familiar with Walsh's work, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. To get the fuller picture, you would also need to read that e-book of collected stories, Lanced: The shaming of Lance Armstrong.

The most interesting part of Walsh's journey is the early years, when there wasn't much direct evidence about Armstrong's doping but plenty of reason to be suspicious. Most journalists were caught between trying to tell the heroic story of Armstrong's comeback from cancer and their suspicion about his potential use of doping products, but Walsh went straight toward the skeptical side and stayed there. Tracing Walsh's mounting evidence over the years, and especially his efforts to get a few inside sources to go on the record, is the best part of the book. He also helps illuminate the early years of EPO use in sports, and helps establish the "family tree" of doping doctors and the riders who made early use of their research into modern performance enhancing drugs. As a journalism insider, Walsh also draws a line between the sports reporters who show up each summer at the Tour de France to glorify the riders -- Walsh calls these writers "fan with typewriters" -- and a smaller number of writers who work to understand what's really happening with doping behind the scenes.

The last part of this book, in which he recounts the exposure of Armstrong's doping activities since 2010, is weaker. The chronology describing what has happened with several US-based investigations is a bit jumbled, and if you haven't followed along closely I think you'd be lost. Walsh did a better job writing about the investigations elsewhere, and some of those stories have been reprinted in the previous e-book, "Lanced." But in "Seven Deadly Sins," for some reason he left out the complete interviews he's done recently with his best sources. Maybe he wasn't allowed to reprint interviews that originally appeared in The Sunday Times in his own book (?). In any case, in this particular work he's reduced to cutting-and-pasting emails from his sources to tell their side of the story. It really feels during the last part of this book that he was rushing to meet his deadline (some of the events described here are only a few weeks old as of the publication date).

Sadly, this doesn't quite become the "definitive" story of how David Walsh wrote the Lance story. To get that, you'd have to read his past couple of months of stories from The Sunday Times, the prior e-book "Lanced," and then this. There is quite a bit of material coming out on Armstrong and his doping activities now, and I think David Walsh owed himself a few more months to polish this -- it should have been a more pulled-together capstone to his "Lance Armstrong years."
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on January 13, 2013
Before I get to the reasons why you should read this book, let me say I agree with a previous reviewer that this book could have done with more judicious editing. At times it becomes breathless and confusing. It reads as tho' some of it was written too hastily or to a newspaper deadline. Perhaps Walsh is by now too close to his material, tho' I find it easy to forgive him for his occasional repetitions and confusions 'cos I have only admiration for his ethical clarity, persistence, and courage. There's an immediacy and indignation in this book that I find compelling. Before reading this, I was more than convinced that Armstrong was a doper. But, to my shame, I hadn't thought through the implications of that. I had no idea of the harm he has done to cycling specifically, sport in general, and to many people--not only those who are upright and innocent, but fellow doping cyclists. Walsh has convinced me not only of Armstrong's doping, but of the individual and collective costs of doping. I am astonished at the brazenness of Armstrong and those around him, the apparent obsequiousness and cowardice of pro-cycling's governing body, and what can only be described as the appallingly craven attitude of the majority of the press. And Walsh's bromides at the UK libel laws are well aimed. I once viewed Armstrong as merely the most successful in a long list of cycling cheaters who competed with a nod and a wink on a more-or-less level playing field. I now have an idea of the dangers and costs of doping. Walsh left me with a vision of Armstrong as a sociopathic, bullying, criminal whose continuing denials can only mask a desperately sad person. This is a fascinating portrayal of an extremely sordid world.
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on December 16, 2012
Highly recommend! David Walsh's book is an amazing and necessary read to make full sense of Lance Armstrong's terrible legacy of doping, lying and bullying. It's an incredibly well written and fascinating book. But the thing that gripped me the most was the personal story of the terrible 13 year struggle that David and a bare handful of other journalists (Paul Kimmage and Pierre Ballister, amongst others) had in investigating and reporting on a glaringly obvious truth that most journalists and a credulous public didn't want to know about. Wow. Amazing courage. I strongly recommend you read David's book first, then the USADA Report, and then Danny Coyle's "Secret Ride". Having done all that, I'm now going back to re-read "Its Not About the Bike" with a yellow highlighter and a massive sense of outrage.
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on March 12, 2013
David Walsh lived and breathed the Lance Armstrong story for years--years when he reported (into a headwind!) facts that few wanted to know. He was abandoned by his fellow writers, ignored by most cycling fans and vilified by LA and his entourage of fanboys and lawyers. In reading this book, I got the sense that the story gushed out of David Walsh's tortured soul onto the page. So, I think he can be forgiven for writing this book in a rush immediately after the USADA report was released, even though I agree with other reviewers that the writing is sloppy in places.

This is an absolutely fascinating story yet troubling on many levels. It is not that hard to understand the cheating itself: in a culture where cheating is rampant, the watchdogs are looking the other way (even helping out), and there's a culture of omerta, it's almost hard to see how anyone could resist the temptation. What makes this story so deeply distressing is the combination of arrogance and viciousness (Lance), conspiracy (Weisel et al, UCI), gullibility (fans) and sycophancy (media) that allowed it not only to happen but to go on for well over a decade before the bizarre web of lies and cruelty finally blew up. Ultimately this story isn't about a guy who cheated to win a few races, it's about some very dark aspects of human nature: the desire to "win" at all costs, the corrupting power of money and influence, the strange need to turn flawed humans into heroes, and the fear of telling the truth when the truth is unpopular.
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on April 11, 2013
What an interesting book this is and what a difficult time the author had when trying to get people to believe that Armstrong was taking drugs. His suspicions were aroused early in Armstrong`s career and David Walsh spent many years getting information and facts and writing newspaper and magazine columns telling of his suspicions.

During that long, and difficult task, Armstrong became more and more famous and thus was more and more protected by the people around him. He also became enormously powerful and used this to try and stymie any individual to whom he took a dislike. He used people when it suited him and cast them aside when they were no longer needed. He wrecked people`s businesses and careers. He was a very vindictive individual.

As we now know, all of the above is true. David Walsh I think, should be congratulated on winning the long battle he had. He too had some horrible difficulties in his life, but overcame them to write this fascinating biography.
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on April 25, 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this account of David Walsh's often lonely quest to expose the lies and hypocrisy surrounding professional cycling. I thought this was a balanced and fair account and I was impressed that David was willing to expose his own weaknesses. I continue to be gobsmacked at the indifference of the authorities to the corruption that was happening under their nose.
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on July 9, 2013
Very revealing story and a fascinating account off what Lance did to cover his and his teams doping. Quite frankly the anti doping authorities have a lot to answer for as they seem to turn a blind eye to many of the goings on. My sympathies to the Andreas family and Emma. They need to be compensated for what they went through.
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on August 26, 2013
This book is worth reading - even for a a person uninterested in the sport. There is fascination in this tale of stars finally aligning to bring a man of great hubris to justice. Of course, those 'stars' were individuals who sometimes suffered greatly to try and get the truth out there. The disgrace is as much in the cover-up as the delay in bringing that truth to the fore. The evidence as presented here is overwhelming that those at the top of the organization deliberately turned a blind eye. Considering that the book was written by an award-winning writer it is patchy in the quality of that writing and as others have pointed out erratic in tone and style. But nevertheless, especially in the second half you can share the author's exhaustion, tension and even, exhileration, as the final vindication of his years of persistence is realized.
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on August 28, 2014
Perhaps more than any other journalist David Walsh pursued the investigation to uncover evidence that Lance Armstrong was cheating by taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Before his cancer treatment Armstrong had competed in the Tour de France four times, finishing 36th once and withdrawing the other three times. When he came back from his treatment to lead it in 1999 - in the first of an unparalleled seven successive wins of the Tour - supposedly drug-free Walsh regarded this as "all about as logical as the Tour being led by a lobster on a bike. A lobster complete with helmet and a moving backstory about a last-minute escape from a pot of boiling water."
Such a view wasn't entirely popular, especially as it was directed at a man whose story was an inspiration to millions. One letter writer to Walsh's newspaper wrote that "Sometimes people get a cancer of the spirit. And maybe that says a lot about them." The writer was half-right. There was a cancer of the spirit but not in the spirits of those who queried the integrity of the sport and of many of its stars but a cancer in the spirit of those who cheated and - to my mind - more so in the ranks of the officials and administrators who facilitated them. (When Armstrong failed a test in '99 he was allowed to present a back-dated doctor's cert to allow the pretence that he wasn't taking a banned substance but rather had been using an approved ointment).
In journalistic style Walsh recounts "the case for the prosecution" as it were and the story of those brave people who stuck their heads above the parapet to tell the truth.
Some reviews have criticized Walsh for obsessing with Armstrong rather than tackling the wider topic of doping in cycling. I think this is unfair. One person or a small group of people can only do so much and if you can expose the one cyclist whose name was known to the average non-cycling fan this is far more effective in highlighting the problem than exposing a larger number of people whose names mean nothing to the average person in the street.
Another criticism is that the latter part of the book has a different feel to what went before and may have been rushed to cash in on the story. I think there is some truth in this criticism but, if anyone was entitled to cash in, whom more so than David Walsh?
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on August 26, 2013
I cant believe I was taken in by LA over the years. An avid fan of cycling and the Tour. I even donned a livestrong band at one time. This book is a shocking indictment of the UCI, the Tour hierarchy, the majority of the peleton at the time, the spineless media in sports and not least LA himself. A great insight into the lives of the brave whistle-blowers involved.
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