American journalist Juliet Macur has reported on Lance Armstrong since 2004 and met the disgraced Texan many times. The doping details have already been picked over incessantly but Macur has dug more deeply into his personal life, and the results aren’t pretty.
Interviews with family members, notably his adoptive father, Terry Armstrong, and beyond-the-grave testimony via recordings from his original mentor and father figure, J T Neal, present a picture of an out-of-control adolescent given to underage boozing, fighting in bars and drink-driving, who morphed into a ruthless, potty-mouthed man who would stop at nothing to crush anyone who dared to challenge him.
If anything, Macur lays it on too thick, and support of a kind for Armstrong comes from an unlikely source in Emma O’Reilly, the Irish soigneur for his US Postal team whose testimony was key to breaking the seemingly impregnable wall of silence around him, and was rewarded by being called a whore and an alcoholic.
Yet they have now reconciled, and O’Reilly says in her memoir, The Race to Truth (Bantam, £16.99): “Lance didn’t dope alone. He had legions of people in high places aiding him… and yet Lance and only Lance is being brought down permanently. George Hincapie doped for at least as long as Lance, and yet was offered just a six-month ban.”
Hincapie, Armstrong’s lead-out man throughout his Tour “successes”, has his say in The Loyal Lieutenant (HarperCollins, £20), but the Texan isn’t the only rider “brought down permanently”; the Frenchman Christophe Bassons, a team-mate of Armstrong who refused to dope, explains in A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, £16.99) how his insistence on riding “clean” led to him being hounded out of the sport he loved. Truth and reconciliation are all very well, but can’t undo the wrongs.
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