With the assistance of Coyle (Lance Armstrong’s War, 2005, etc.), Olympic gold medalist and former professional cyclist Hamilton dishes the dirt on the clandestine culture of doping so endemic to his sport.
“I’m good at pain,” writes the author, who was a longtime U.S. Postal cycling squad teammate of Lance Armstrong. Readers soon learn that this addiction to pain is an absolute requirement to survive his pressure-cooker life as a professional cyclist, a masochistic existence that makes the physical risks run in sports like football and pro boxing look trivial. Hamilton’s story is also partly the story of once-revered cycling celeb (and now disgraced doper) Armstrong, as the two were rivals for years. Hamilton chronicles the entire rise-and-fall arc of his professional career, going from his beginnings as a clean-living anti-doping idealist in the early 1990s to becoming a slave to the intense competitive pressure to ingest a chemical smorgasbord of performance-enhancing substances just to keep up with everyone else. Any notions of cycling as a clean sport go out the window immediately. Hamilton’s unsparing account of the damaging (and often dope-fueled) physical and mental toll that top-level cycling takes on its practitioners, not to mention the constant pressure to evade drug testers and beat the drug tests themselves, is a decidedly bleak and unglamorous portrait of the sporting life. For Hamilton, compounding this maniacal all-or-nothing quest for victory was the fact that he had to constantly deal with Armstrong, who comes off as Stalin on a bike: a sociopathic rage-prone prima donna who went to great lengths to destroy the lives of those who threatened his reputation.
Fascinating, surprisingly disturbing look at the layers of corruption behind the sleek facade of professional cycling.