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Old 10-30-2013, 10:50 AM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
41,287 posts, read 18,643,446 times
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When Ryan Braun was first caught with a positive drug test for PEDs, among his immediate defenses was to cite the fact that he had passed dozens of drug tests during the season. When Alex Rodriguez's most recent suspension was announced, his lawyers were out there immediately citing how many drug tests Arod had passed.

So, if these guys are guilty, how were they able to pass all of those tests?

If you wish to know, you should read a book about professional bicycle racing. It is called "The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover Ups and Winning at All Costs." It was written by Tyler Hamilton (with co-author Daniel Coyle.) Hamilton was a world class racer who spent several years as a teammate of Lance Armstrong on the US Postal service team which won those seven consecutive tours. Hamilton was eventually caught and forced out of the sport for his PEDs use, but stopped his lies and denials in 2009 and instead began cooperating with investigators as well as going on 60 Minutes to confess all.

He was attacked furiously in the media by supporters of Armstrong (who had yet to confess at this time) as well as by Armstrong and his lawyers and pr agents. Armstrong has subsequently confessed, validating what Hamilton has written in this book.


What makes this book such a great read is that it is first a primer on PEDs themselves. You learn exactly how performance is boosted by various methods, it is actually quite a precise science and should forever shut down those critics who keep claiming that they do not help all that much. Clearly they make an enormous difference. You also learn how the athletes managed to cheat the tests. They did it by having better doctors than testing agencies could afford to hire. Hamilton mentions the sport's regulatory body finally coming up with a "foolprooof" test for blood doping which took them two years to develop. Hamilton writes that it took his doctor five minutes to figure out how to get around it.

Timing your ingestion of PEDs around the "surprise" tests which often aren't surprises at all, diluting one's blood with excessive water drinking or saline IV bags, replacing blood entirely via transfusions, and the constant monitoring and testing of oneself so that your readings will be just under the legal limit when tested by the agencies...all these things Hamilton did on a regular basis and he doped heavily from 1997 through 2004 before being caught with his first positive test.

Hamilton also takes you inside the defensive strategies of those who are caught, another primer, this one on how to manage the pr problems as taught by Lance Armstrong. When accused, you go on the attack at once, challenging the character and motives of those doing the testing, suggesting clandestine conspiracies by rivals to run you out of the sport, citing your passed tests and looking straight into the cameras while you lie with convincing sincerity, and threatening an array of lawsuits against all those who questioned your integrity. The goal is to appear to be the persecuted martyr in the public perception.

Hamilton also provides the insider's perspective on justification. Everyone starts out cleanly with no intentions of winning glory with anything save their natural abilities and work ethics. Then they discover that they can no longer compete with those who have gone the doping route. Eventually it reaches a crisis point where the choice becomes...start doping to get yourself up to world class levels, or quit the sport it was your life long dream to play.

All that Hamilton writes about in connection to bicycle racing, we will instantly recognize in MLB. The same motives, the same credibility stretching results, the same outraged denials, the same use of greater resources to cheat the tests, the same rationalizations for why they did it.

One aspect Hamilton writes about which I had not given much though to before is the living with your lies. When the honors and parades begin it is impossible to truly enjoy the moment when you know it is all based on dishonest methods. How does a PEDs achiever feel when he is at his home town high school where they have just named the new gym after him and delivered lectures to the students about what a great example he is for the kids? How do you accept the congratulations of your loved ones while continuing to deceive them about your accomplishments?

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. I was not, nor am I now, any sort of fan of bicycle racing, but I enjoy a good scandal along with the rest of the public. That is why I read the book, I did not know how fantastically educational it was going to be. You do not need to know anything at all about bike racing to appreciate this work.
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