Book Reviews

The Death of Marco Pantani: A Biography by Matt Rendell

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List Price: £8.99


Paperback: 336 Pages.

Published: 06 June 2007 by W&N

Edition: New Ed

ISBN: 9780753822036

EAN: 9780753822036

At 9:30 pm on 14 February 2004, former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was found dead in Rimini. It emerged that he had been addicted to cocaine since Autumn 1999, weeks after being expelled from the Tour of Italy for blood doping. Conspiracy theories abounded - that he was injected in his sleep by a business rival, that the Olympic Committee had framed him, that Italian Industrialists had engineered his downfall, etc etc.

If none of these is entirely true and none of them fully explains Pantani's personal tragedy, none of them is foundationless. This book debunks the myths and makes surprising revelations. About Pantani's personal tragedy, but also about the world of cycling. Matt Rendell had access not only to court transcripts but to many of Pantani's friends and the doctors who treated him.

But Pantani's life is about much more than drug addiction. Lance Armstrong described him as 'more of an artist than an athlete - an extravagant figure ...' Despite being plagued with injuries he won both the Giro and the Tour in 1998, something very few cyclists even attempt. He was an inspirational icon, and the remarkable wins against all odds make gripping reading.


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

Tragic story, well told

In the 1990s the cyclist Marco Pantani was the best climber in the world, winning all the major races including the Tour de France. He was one of the most successful Italians in the world and instantly recognisable because of his sticking out ears and his bald head. In 2004 he died alone of cocaine poisoning, having lost his reputation following the discovery that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs for the whole of his career. This is a desperately sad story beautifully told by Matt Rendell who has been a sports journalist for many years.

Rendell tells Marco's story from his beginnings in poverty. He shows how important winning became to him and the pressure that he was under to perform. He also demonstrates the fact that Marco was the subject of systematic doping by those he should have trusted to take care of him and promote his interests. By the end of his career all those around him needed him to continue competing and winning for their own financial gain, they forced Marco into actions which risked his life. He is pretty sure that drugs were a factor in Marco's life from his amateur days as a teenage rider.

The author sets out the facts about what riders took and were given to enhance their performance and the effects that the drugs had on their bodies. Some of this stuff is a bit technical and there is a little too much detail but it is worth persevering as this is essentially a story about a flawed man who lost everything for the pursuit of glory. This book was written before the Lance Armstrong admissions but it is obvious throughout the book the depth of the problem in cycling at the time. In the end Matt Rendell has a terrible observation - drugs affect each person's physiology in a different way. Even had all the riders been taking drugs, it was never a level playing field. We can never know what sort of a cyclist Marco Pantani would have been without drugs and nor will we ever know what sort of a person he would have been.

A deeply tragic book, told in a completely engaging way. Unmissable if you want to know anything at all about the major issue in sport today.

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