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As the cycling world waits to see what will come from the US Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) allegations against Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton's book The Secret Race lays bare the dirty truth.

A former Armstrong teammate and later a rival, Hamilton explodes the "myth" of the Texan's iconic status in cycling and his record run of seven Tour de France victories.

Armstrong was stripped of his Tour wins last month and handed a lifetime ban by the USADA after indicating that he would not challenge charges that he had doped throughout his career.

The USADA report, containing riders' testimonies, is to be sent to cycling's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), this month. The UCI will decide whether to confirm the ban.


While Armstrong has consistently denied wrongdoing, Hamilton's book offers detail and insight into the allegations that Armstrong refuses to confront. It also sketches the portrait of a man who is driven by a mix of bravado and paranoia.

He alleges that Armstrong told him in 2001 that he had tested positive for EPO during the Tour of Switzerland, claiming he was not bothered as "it has all been taken care of".

Armstrong's ability to stay a step ahead of a slip-up is also outlined: "Compared to the cluelessness of the testers, Lance's senses were dialled in tight, particularly when it came to doping.

"He watched everyone; he looked for strange leaps in performance; he paid attention to who was working with which doctor. He wanted to sort out who was doping more, being aggressive, ambitious, innovative - in short, who needed to be watched.

"To stay ahead, Lance would use races for gathering information, digging for gossip, getting some inside knowledge."

Hamilton tells his story more as a firsthand witness to the deceit behind doping and cycling's Omerta - code of silence - within the peloton, teams and officials. As he sees it, every cyclist has "a thousand days" before choosing whether to dope.

"Here's an interesting number: one thousand days. It's roughly the number of days between the day I became professional and the day I doped for the first time.

"In some ways, it's depressing. But in other ways, I think it's human. One thousand mornings of waking up with hope; a thousand afternoons of being crushed. A thousand days of paniagua (Spanish for bread and water), bumping painfully against the wall at the edge of your limits, trying to find a way past. A thousand days of getting signals that doping is OK, signals from powerful people you trust and admire, signals that say 'it'll be fine' and 'everybody's doing it'. And beneath of all that, the fear that if you don't find some way to ride faster, then your career is over. Willpower might be strong, but it's not infinite. And once you cross the line, there's no going back."

Hamilton's risk-taking eventually caught up with him. At the 2004 Olympics he won gold in the men's individual time trial, only to fail a blood doping test a month later in the Tour of Spain. Hamilton was banned for two years by the USADA in 2005 and again in 2009 when he failed an out of competition drug test. He retired shortly afterwards.

The Secret Race reads more like the rock'n'roll madness of Keith Richards' excellent memoir, Life, for the sheer volume of drugs, discarded needles, blood transfusions and clandestine meetings. It's a highly insightful book that is by turns gripping and gossipy with a story that will not go away for Armstrong and elite cycling.