Book Reviews

Bad Blood: The Secret Life of the Tour de France by Jeremy Whittle

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List Price: £9.99

 

Paperback: 240 Pages.

Published: 04 June 2009 by Yellow Jersey

Edition: UK ed.

ISBN: 0224080237

EAN: 9780224080231

For Jeremy Whittle, there isn't much in life as spectacular as the Tour de France: sweat-streaked, taut and burnished athletes toiling across vast and ancient European landscapes, hundreds of thousands of fans lining the route. The twisting Mediterranean roads, the jerseys, the peloton in full flight - these have become as familiar to him as the lines around his eyes. And then there are the riders: men of almost superhuman capabilities, men who have become his friends, men whose stories he has written day in day out for the past decade. But even the biggest fan can one day wake up to find that he has lost his faith.

We all want to believe in our heroes. That's why Jeremy got into cycling. But what happens when you can't? When you've seen too many positive dope tests, when you've been lied to too many times, when your sport is destroying itself from within?

Bad Blood is the story of Jeremy Whittle's journey from unquestioning fan to Tour de France insider and confirmed sceptic. It's about broken friendships and a sport divided; about having to choose sides in the war against doping; about how galloping greed and corporate opportunism have led the Tour de France to the brink of destruction. Part personal memoir, part devastating exposé of a sport torn apart by drugs and scandal, Bad Blood is a love letter to one man's past, and a warning to cycling's future.

Reviews

4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars  by Anne

A Tale of Disillusion

Jeremy Whittle was a fan of cycling and served for many years as a journalist on the Tour de France. He got to know the cyclists and the team officials and immersed himself in the sport. He was especially close to Lance Armstrong as he started his climb to fame. As part of the inner circle of cycling he knew about, and ignored, the use of drugs in the sport which at the time was at its height. There was, and to some extent still is, a curtain of silence around the whole issue.

As the drugs issue started to become public (mass arrests of cyclists and team officials) the author realised how far he had compromised himself by being part of the secret and lies. As he began to take a stand, he became an observer of the internal politics of the sport at a time when it was revealed to be riddled with cheating and the ramifications of the revelations to the sport and to the people involved in it (some interesting stuff about David Millar).

This is a fascinating account of the author's awakening but also of how other people within and outside the sport reacted to what was happening. He tells of those who were determined to enforce a code of silence, those who denied things which were blatantly obvious, those who were repentent and those who still think that they did nothing wrong. He is also clear how the sports authorities institutionalised drug taking within cycling.The story is told as his revelation of what was happening and how his relationships with those in the sport changed.

I think that you probably need a little bit of knowledge of cycling and who the main players are to grasp this book fully and it certainly throws new light on people you thought that you knew something about - Lance Armstrong particularly does not come out of the book well, although I must be clear that the author does not at any time accuse him of taking drugs. The focus of the bood, however, is on the author, his discoveries and his feelings about cycling.

This is not an uplifting book - showing as it does a sport rotten to the core. It is, however, an interesting and informative one and tells an inside story of an era in sport which we can only hope was unique.

 
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