Cycle of Lies

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Lance Armstrong was a world name for his fight against cancer and then his fight to be one of the best racing cyclists known. Unfortunately he also became an infamous name when his history of cheating by doping became known last year. When I saw Juliet Macur’s Cycle of Lies (ISBN 978-0-00-752063-3, William Collins, 2014) on the Bookazine shelves, I had to take it to see if there were extenuating circumstances that could explain his repeated actions for so many years.

Cycle of Lies was written after extended one on one interviews with Armstrong, by Juliet Macur, an award winning journalist with the New York Times, a woman who is obviously skilled in first person interviews.

The first chapter deals with the families who raised Lance Armstrong, or rather his mother Linda who has written her own book, which apparently has been written from a point of view which might not reflect the real situation but show her in a favorable light.

His young life shows him to have been a classic bully, a threatening aggressive boy, not too bright academically but very good as a hard training athlete.

From the influence of his family, author Macur looks at the use of drugs in the Tour de France, something that was done with impunity for many years. Cyclists raced with pockets full of cocaine, chloroform and amphetamines from the early 1900’s. Was Armstrong just another follower or was he a ringleader?

The lead-up to the final denial and then admission, reads like a thriller, with Armstrong so powerful that he could raise a veritable army to attempt to discredit those who pointed a finger at America’s favorite son.

It was also interesting that many of those who accused Armstrong were not necessarily doing this through moral reasons, but in many cases to get back at the man who had threatened them for so many years

As the house of cards starts to crumble, Armstrong watches his previous team riders come clean, while Armstrong was still toughing it out, but the pressure becomes even greater. Even while his former team riders were singing like canaries, Armstrong and his sponsor Nike were trying to gain support at federal level, employing other investigators to try and discredit those who were charging him with doping charges.

Author Macur details the rats leaving the sinking ship as the evidence became insurmountable, complete with mealy-mouthed press releases from his major sponsor.

The Oprah Winfrey TV tell all gets its natural coverage, but the damage to his reputation will never be enough to remove the stigma.

For B. 495, this is a bargain book. It has a wealth of information, but it also shows just how one man could build such a following, even though based on a tissue of lies, despite the prolonged denials from Armstrong. As a psychological study this book is just as powerful as Armstrong was at the height of the adulation. It is a well crafted and indeed powerful expose of Lance Armstrong and as the front cover proclaims, this book is “the fall of Lance Armstrong.”