Tyler Hamilton celebrates winning the 16th stage of the 2003 Tour de France, the day after he now admits to a blood transfusion two weeks after breaking his collar bone in one of the earlier stages.
Tyler Hamilton celebrates winning the 16th stage of the 2003 Tour de France, the day after he now admits to a blood transfusion two weeks after breaking his collar bone in one of the earlier stages.

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle

Tyler Hamilton was once one of Lance Armstrong's most trusted lieutenants and part of the innermost circle of the US Postal cycling team when it began dominating the Tour de France.

Hamilton was privy to the dark and shady side of the team where a systematic doping programme was the key to their success and his book, “The Secret Race”, co-authored with journalist Daniel Coyle, leaves no doubt that success was not the result of tactics and their being superior athletes alone.

The book answers once and for all the question which has dominated cycling for years: it leaves the reader with no doubt that Armstrong used illegal substances and methods to achieve his seven Tour de France victories.

But Hamilton and Coyle are adamant that they never wrote the book with the intention of destroying Armstrong’s reputation.

“I am proud of writing the book, but I am not so proud of what is in there,” said Hamilton from his home in Montana when the Daily News spoke to him last week.

“It was tough to talk about what is in there, but I hope that it helps more people to come forward to tell the truth.

“For cycling to move forward, more people need to come out and tell what happened in those dark times.

“To go down the right path cycling now needs to forgive, but first we need to understand the how, why and what was going on… everybody from riders, managers, directors and doctors need to come clean.

“I believe an amnesty would help because we need to have people come forward and tell the truth, and for that to happen they need to know there will be no consequences… Without that too many people are too afraid.”

Coyle also believes that Armstrong will never admit to what he has been charged with and what a growing number of his teammates are saying happened behind the doors of the team bus.

“The book is not so much about Lance as it was about the world in which he lived,” said Coyle. “Lance was simply doing what everybody else was doing, only he was doping maybe a bit more aggressively than most.

“Lance did not invent the doping culture, but he was merely living in that world and the book gives a portrait of that world where there is a win-at-all costs philosophy.

“I do not think he will ever admit to doping … there are too many barriers for him: things like legal action from sponsors and also a psychological barrier where it is difficult for him to admit the truth – I think if you made Lance take a lie detector test he might pass it because he does not believe he has done anything wrong.”

Coyle and Hamilton are adamant that the UCI (cycling’s controlling body) are not doing enough to stamp out the problem.

“Cycling is better today,” said Hamilton, when comparing the present drug culture in the sport with his early years as a professional rider in the late 1990s. “I would rather ride today than when I started. Times are slower now and there are none of the superman performances we saw… but I am still not 100 percent convinced it is clean. There may be a lot more clean riders today than 10 years ago, but there are still cheaters.

“I think there needs to be some sort of truth and reconciliation meeting … maybe in the winter. There are still a lot of people who were riding and directors from back when I was involved.

“Nobody from the UCI has communicated with me about the book and if I was running the UCI I would have questions about what is in there – I mean, if I was CEO of an organisation that was corrupt I would like to know what happened, why it happened and how it happened so we know how to avoid it in the future.

“I would love to help in any way possible, but it is possible that the UCI do not want to hear about my experiences.”

* “The Secret Race” is published by Bantam Press and the recommended retail price is R240