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Cycle of Lies – New Book on the Fall of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur of the The New York Times

by John Symon

March 18, 2014 (New York, NY) – Cycle of Lies; The Fall of Lance Armstrong is a newly-released book by Juliet Macur, a sports reporter for The New York Times who has covered Armstrong and written about him for over a decade.

According to The New York Times website Macur has covered the Olympics and Olympic sports, doping and legal issues since 2004. She has written features on a variety of other subjects, including  former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s fear of mortality and the plight of N.F.L. quarterback Michael Vick’s pit bulls.

Macur caught up with Armstrong last year while he was busy packing up his belongings for a move to more modest quarters as he faces multi-million dollar lawsuits. It was Armstrong who invited her visit him in Austin, TX despite what she terms a “contentious” relationship over the ten years during which she wrote about the cyclist. Apparently Armstrong objected to the book’s title, but still participated with the interviews.

In addition to interviewing Armstrong, Macur also interviewed others in the cyclists’ inner circle, including  some who had never before spoken to the media on this topic. Among these, there are 26 hours of private recordings by J. T. Neal, a wealthy Texan who befriended Armstrong as a teenager and became a mentor.

Most reviews agree that Macur’s book paints an unflattering picture of the seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor. Little more than a year ago, many considered Armstrong to be a hero. After many years of fierce denials he finally admitted to doping on the Oprah Winfrey show. Macur also met with and interviewed Armstrong and those close to him shortly after those Oprah interviews were aired.

“I wanted to explain how Armstrong became the biggest liar of his generation,” said Macur in an interview with La Presse about her new book. The Toronto Star concurs maintaining that Armstrong is a “world-class liar” describing him as “a bully, cheat, narcissist, user, angry, aggressive and insecure.”

The question still remains whether Armstrong singlehandedly orchestrated what USADA termed “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Once held up as a hero, is Armstrong now being turned into the scapegoat to absolve others of blame?

Macur suggests that if Armstrong had been nicer to people, he would never have suffered such a dramatic downfall. She wanted her work to be balanced and reflect what is good about Armstrong so she asked the Texan to give her a list of people who could speak in his favour. But when Macur contacted these people, none wanted to say anything good about Armstrong including his own mother, Linda.

Nowadays, Armstrong is busy playing golf while he waits and hopes for the day when he can again compete in an Ironman. That day might be a long time coming; the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has served Armstrong with a lifetime ban from all sports overseen by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Juliet Macur’s Cycle of Lies, HarperCollins, 480 pages, $34.99 CDN hardcover here.

The Star here.
La Presse (in French) here.
New York Times here.

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