The definitive account of Lance Armstrong's spectacular rise and fall. In June 2013, when Lance Armstrong fled his palatial home in Texas, downsizing in the face of multimillion-dollar lawsuits, Juliet Macur was there - talking to his girlfriend and children and listening to Armstrong's version of the truth. She was one of the few media members aside from Oprah Winfrey to be granted extended one-on-one access to the most famous pariah in sports. At the center of Cycle of Lies is Armstrong himself, revealed through face-to-face interviews. But this unfolding narrative is given depth and breadth by the firsthand accounts of more than 100 witnesses, including family members whom Armstrong had long since turned his back on - the adoptive father who gave him the Armstrong name, a grandmother, an aunt. Perhaps most damning of all is the taped testimony of the late J. T. Neal, the most influential of Armstrong's many father figures, recorded in the final years of Neal's life as he lost his battle with cancer just as Armstrong gained fame for surviving the disease. In the end, it was Armstrong's former friends, those who had once occupied the precious space of his inner circle, who betrayed him. They were the ones who dealt Armstrong his fatal blow by breaking the code of silence that shielded the public from the grim truth about the sport of cycling - and the grim truth about its golden boy, Armstrong. Threading together the vivid and disparate voices of those with intimate knowledge of the private and public Armstrong, Macur weaves a comprehensive and unforgettably rich tapestry of one man's astonishing rise to global fame and fortune and his devastating fall from grace.
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First of all, bravo to Macur, not only for her excellent job of journalism here, but for having the balls to stand up to Armstrong's cocky insistence, "You can write what you want, but your book is called Cycle of Lies? That has to change!" Evidently, the fallen, self-aggrandizing demigod is still juiced up on a cocktail of arrogance, bullying, moral relativism, and egotism. I'm more fascinated than disgusted -- as long as I don't have a full stomach. I'm also fascinated by Pete Rose, Bernie Madoff, the Emperor's new parade outfit, Presidents that scrutinize what the meaning of the word 'is' is, and anyone that has to have Oprah Winfrey clarify the word *cheater*. Oprah: You did not feel that you were cheating taking banned drugs? Armstrong: I went in and just looked up the definition of cheat. And the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don't have. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field. Almost everything that has come out of this guy's mouth since he was finally cornered and force fed the irrefutable evidence, is a toxic sound bite arguing the case against there being even a miniscule glimmer of remorse, enlightenment, or humility within.
Cycle of Lies (nee-ner-nee-ner-nee-ner) is a *fascinating* and wonderfully researched book that rises above previous points of view and factoid pieces of work, setting some records straight, and obliterating others. Macur's one on one journalistic relationship with Armstrong (often more like a sparring partnership), and hours of conversations with insiders that have never spoken before about their knowledge of Armstrong, due to a doping *Omertà* among the cyclists, reveal whole new levels of ugliness to the grand deception. Called "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," by the Union Cycliste International (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). [Omertà implies "the categorical prohibition of cooperation with state authorities or reliance on its services, even when one has been victim of a crime"; a term used by the Mafia; or the equivalent of a pinkie-swear among cycling dopers.]
Probably the most revealing and damning information comes from Macur's exclusive access to 26 hrs. of taped testimony from Armstrong's mentor and surrogate father, J.T. Neal. Beyond the doping facts, Neal gives a clear picture of a boy that was ruthlessly mean, self-centered, and uncaring, who grew up to be a man that magnified those traits, determined to win at all costs. There is nary a kind word spoken of the champion (that actually never was, according to information contained in Cycle of Lies). Which shouldn't be so surprising dealing with a man that "used cancer as his shield many times," [The Armstrong Lie; Alex Gibney] and discarded people like used up garbage. Just when you begin to wonder if Macur had a wee bit of a get-back fantasy, a secret desire to dish out crow -- surely there has to be some tenderness, some softness somewhere, some pleasant testimony powerful enough to redeem the self-justification and destruction -- Armstrong opens his mouth and spits out another arrogant comment, demanding pity for money problems that ensued after sponsor's jumped ship, or thanks from corporations that owe their success singularly to him. He just doesn't get it.
Before listening to this book, I read Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever, by Reed Albergotti, and wrote down this quote: “...Lance is the inevitable product of our celebrity-worshipping culture and the whole money-mad world of sports gone amok. This is the Golden Age of fraud, an era of general willingness to ignore and justify the wrongdoings of the rich and powerful, which makes every lie bigger and widens its destructive path.” I think Macur eloquently makes the point that Lance is the product of Lance, and in the end, for any of us and our choices, the responsibility is ours alone.
If you are still hanging onto one of those rubber yellow wristbands, you're probably not going to appreciate a great job by author Juliet Macur. A cyclist myself, I found the book engrossing, with each mind-boggling revelation leading into another, more absurd than the previous. I tossed my Live Strong band, unworn, years ago. It's not my job to judge or forgive; I just remain fascinated, and in the saddle.
Like Wheelmen, this book falls short due to being written by someone outside the sport looking in and trying to piece together what happened. This is the trouble with all non-first account reports. This is why Hamilton's book is the best out of the three. This book was second. Also, it may be a function of audio narration but the tone of the book was so mocking it was distracting. I actually think when a female attempts to do a male voice it just comes across as comical mockery. That is just my impression after listening to the book. Anyway, worth a credit and a listen if you follow this story like I do.