Lance Armstrong won a record-smashing seven Tour de France yellow jerseys after staring down cancer, and in the process became an international symbol of resilience and courage. In a sport constantly dogged by blood doping scandals, Armstrong seemed above the fray. Never had cycling – or any sport—boasted such a charismatic and accomplished champion.
Then, in the summer of 2012, the legend imploded. The rumors that had long dogged Armstrong began to solidify. Buried evidence surfaced. Hushed-up witnesses came forth. Armstrong’s Tour victories were stripped from him. His sponsors abandoned him. And in a final disgrace, he resigned as chairman of his own foundation. In January 2013, Armstrong finally admitted doping during the Tours, and in an interview with Oprah, described his "mythic, perfect story" as "one big lie." But his admission raised more questions than it answered-- because he didn't say who had helped him dope or who had helped him to avoid getting caught.
With over three years of extensive reporting, deep sourcing, and interviews with nearly every key player, including Armstrong, Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell have established themselves as the undisputed authorities on this story. While not just a story about doping and cheating, neither is it a pure sports tale. It is a parable of epic proportion, an account of both entangled business interests and human fallibility. And most of the story remains to be told.
Wheelmen reveals the broader tale of how Armstrong and his supporters used money, power, and cutting-edge science to conquer the world’s most difficult race. It introduces U.S. Postal Service Team owner Thom Weisel, who brought business acumen and ingenuity unprecedented in professional cycling, and ousted USA Cycling’s top leadership to gain control of the sport in the U.S., ensuring Armstrong’s dominance. Meanwhile, sponsors fought over contracts with Armstrong and his foundation, as the entire sport of cycling began to benefit from the “Lance effect.”
Wheelmen offers a riveting look at what happens when enigmatic genius breaks loose from the strictures of morality. It reveals the competitiveness and ingenuity that sparked blood doping as an accepted practice, and shows how Americans methodically constructed an international operation of spies and breakthrough technology to reach the top.
Lance Armstrong survived and thrived against nigh-insurmountable odds and built a team of unprecedented accomplishment. But in the end, his own outsized ambition destroyed it. At last exposing the truth about Armstrong and American cycling, Wheelmen paints a living portrait of what is, without question, the greatest conspiracy in the history of sports.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” -Abraham Lincoln