Domestic Pleasure Stillmasking Tour's Difficulties; BOOKREVIEW

The Birmingham Post (England), July 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Domestic Pleasure Stillmasking Tour's Difficulties; BOOKREVIEW


Byline: Peter Sharkey

Bad Blood The Secret Life of the Tour de France By Jeremy Whittle Yellow Jersey Press

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In his excellent biography of the late Marco Pantani published in 2006, Matt Rendell's eloquent description of professional cycling echoed the thoughts of many fans and observers. "The idea of sport that Marco embodied wasn't one that encouraged the athletes to face the truth about their existences," he wrote.

"It conceived of sport as media content (especially television content), of athletes and events as billboards, and of physical movement as applied science, especially applied medical science. To be talented meant not only to have prodigious physical capabilities but also to be responsive to doping products and to be ready to play an almost literally blood-curdling game of Russian roulette using hormones, blood transfusions and steroids. In this highstakes game, the advantage is with the insane... It didn't die with him."

Rendell's conclusion and widespread praise for his book upset many people associated with cycling and now Whittle's warts-and-all account is unlikely to win friends among Tour de France organisers.

Like boxing and golf, cycling's individualistic nature attracts great writers who appreciate the inherent battles between competitor and either the elements or his opponents. In cycling's case, it's both - the problem, as Whittle explains, is the sport's association with drugs.

Apart from Pantani, who died from a cocaine overdose in a hotel room in Rimini at the age of 34, professional cycling has a reputation for harbouring men prepared to do what it takes to win. …

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