Breaking the Chain
Drugs and Cycling – The True Story
by Willy Voet – Translated by William Fotheringham
Wow what a book. If you had ever wondered how and why the Festina incident exploded or rather imploded during the 1998 Tour de France then this is the book to read. A read that will be hard to put down and if you do will be itching to pick it up as soon as you can! Written by the Festina Team soigneur Willy Voet, the man who was caught red handed with a car full of team drugs. He shows you the murky world of team meds and doping from insiders perspective, it’s quite horrifying.
Actually this book goes much much further then you might have ever imagined, many riders who have used and abused drugs both legal and less then legal are named and in some instances shamed. You will also find out how riders are able to use banned substances and avoid testing positive by either timing of doses or the types of drugs and mixes used. In fact Mr Voet goes a step further and explains how within twenty minutes a rider can take an IV solution that will ensure the rider does not fail a random out of competition test, very convenient if the tester turns up while the rider is in the shower!
This book goes beyond any other book I have read about doping and certainly leaves nothing to the imagination, it also confirms many of the facts disclosed by other books I have read. There is so much more that I would love to tell you about but then it would not be worth you reading the book!
The bottom line is go out and buy a copy, it might not give you all the answers but I can guarantee that it will certainly get you thinking!
PS. If you think Lance is above and beyond suspicion then I would recommend that you read this book and some of the recent revelations from his soigneur are confirmed by Willy as standard practice at the time. It also ties in nicely with some of the issues covered in David Millar’s autobiography (Racing Through The Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar, read our review here) they make good companion books. This gets a Cycling Shorts Star Buy rating of 100%… the first!
This really is a must read if you want to make an informed decision about the state of cycling pre and post 1998.
Breaking the Chain: Drugs and Cycling – The True Story
Author: Willy Voet – Translated by William Fotheringham
Published by Yellow Jersey Press & Vintage Digital
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)
Racing Through the Dark
The Fall and Rise of David Millar
by David Millar
I have read many autobiographies about cyclists over the years, but none of them can be compared to this magnificent book by David Millar.
The story can be read on two levels. The first is the most obvious one: a review of one of the most important and decisive periods in contemporary cycling: the end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century (the controversial Lance Armstrong era), recorded by an insider. The second is more universal: it is the tale of the loss of innocence, the psychologically fully acceptable story of how a talented young person gets drawn into a world of corruption and foul play, driven by the hunger for success and recognition, and how this world makes this acceptable, because everybody is playing by the same “rules” and the “real world” is well hidden and seems reassuringly far away (a term recently used by Armstrong’s in his defence as he declined to fight his longterm battle with USADA, ‘I played by the rules of the time’). In David Millar’s case, the protagonist survives, and returns on a higher level, an advocate of stronger anti-doping regulations, which, sadly enough, can’t be said of many heroes in many similar stories.
For the real cycling fan, “Racing through the Dark” contains a tremendous amount of background information of how things worked in the pro teams at the time of the 1998 Festina Tour de France: we see how the Cofidis team was organised, we see how “stars” like Philippe Gaumont and Frank Vandenbroucke were behaving like real lunatics, taking drugs before major races, and getting away with it, as long as results were good…We learn how the practice of injections used for recuperation was omnipresent, and how one step leads to the other, as was the case for Millar when he was staying in the house of one of his Italian teammates, who is called “l’Equipier” in the book, but who, in my opinion, can’t be anyone else but Massimiliano Lelli.
We also get a nice insight into contemporary racing, because, luckily, Millar’s racing days weren’t over after he‘d got caught. There is the story of his meeting with the flamboyant JV (Jonathan Vaughters), his friendship with Stuart O’Grady, the Commonwealth Games in India together with Cav (Mark Cavendish), who is described in a very positive way, participating in the Tour de France with a young Bradley Wiggins, who comes across to me to be a rather selfish person, not a team player.
And then there is the second level, the extraordinarily intelligent and well written story of the fall and rise of a talented sportsman, originally from Scotland, who, after his parents get divorced, spends his youth partly in Hong Kong, and partly in England, where his mother and sister still live. We follow his story, how he comes to France to become a pro cyclist, how he reaches top level, winning the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, living the life of a superstar, dwelling in Monaco and Biarritz, how he gets caught for doping practices, and falls into depression, but, sustained by the help of his sister and a few good friends eventually crawls back, and reaches the highest level again, clean and more satisfied this time.
It is this story of “redemption”, as Millar calls it, that makes the book more interesting than the average autobiography of well- known sportsmen, it shows the reader how easily one can make the wrong decisions, how gradually a naïve ambitious youngster chooses the side of the cheating colleagues, and how living in a protected, small universe makes one unaware of what is morally acceptable in the “real world”.
Racing through the Dark is a must read for every cycling fan, who is not only interested in facts and figures, but also enjoys reading a fine story that makes us understand what was going on in the pro teams in the recent past, and makes us hope that there is still a future for cycling.
Racing Through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar
Author: David Millar
Published by Orion
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)