Whittle’s book is a story that threads this very recent history of drug use until just about today (2008), highlighting the downfall of many a great rider, such as Pantani, Hamilton and Ulrich, who never ever made it back (and in Pantani’s case, probably helped along his early, drug-induced death), and others who were caught, paid their dues, then made triumphant returns: Basso, Vino, Millar to name a few.
The story Whittle weaves is also one of lost innocence – in this case his. It took a decade or so, but non-stop scandals turned him from an unquestioning die-hard fan of the sport to a hardcore skeptic. His tone, however, is far from the black and white of Kimmage (Rough Ride). His appears to be a more nuanced understanding of the problem and he just can’t write off ‘cheaters’ for making mistakes, especially considering the massive pressure many find themselves under to dope. Both Kimmage and Whittle know that the problem is systematic in nature, but, for me at least, Whittle seems to attack the system more than the riders.
Whittle is completely awestruck by Lance Armstrong throughout the book. The Texan pops up throughout the narrative, partly because he totally owned much of this era, but also because of the endless questions about Lance’s ‘cleanliness’. He gives a good account of all sides of the stories over the years, but you finish the book feeling that it will be only a matter of time before even Lance will be found out. It seems inconceivable that he didn’t dope, considering the number of people around him who have either been caught or have confessed (and this was of course written well before Landis and Hamilton [part one, part two] came out with their recent accusations). But maybe that’s just my take.
Bad Blood is a well-rounded account of modern doping in the peloton and, incidentally, a very well written book – something that can’t be said for all cycling tales.
P.S. Thanks to Coach Rob for the gift!