Recommended Reading: “The Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever”

Book cover of “Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever.” Image provided by

By Kasha Patel
BU News Service

As a science journalism student, I am taking the liberty of focusing more on the “journalism” aspect instead of the “science” aspect in this post.

We’ve all heard snippets of Lance Armstrong’s admission to doping. This Tuesday (10/15/13), WSJ reporters Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell are releasing their book “Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, The Tour de France and The Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever” that takes a comprehensive look at how Armstrong’s career, including detailed accounts of how he and his teammates doped. To whet our appetite, WSJ released an excerpt of the book that people can read for free. And for me, it worked.

The book shows how the doping scandal was quite elaborate at times. In the excerpt, Albergotti and O’Connell write about a time when the U.S. team bus pulled to the side of the road, and the bus driver went outside with orange traffic cones, so the bus appears “broken down.” Inside the bus, though, teammates were taking turns laying on the ground connected to chilled bags of blood that were hanging from overhead luggage racks, asthe WSJ journalists reported. Blood transfusions are an illegal form of blood doping. The transfusions increase the number of red blood cells– the cells that carry oxygen to muscles– and does give cyclists an edge.

I was enthralled by this excerpt, not only because of the revealing facts, but because of the natural writing style. I found there to be seamless transitions between events in the past and not so distant past. For instance, in the bus scene, Albergotti and O’Connell are actually writing about Landis, one of Armstrong’s teammates, rehashing the experience to federal agents from the FDA and USADA (anti-doping agency).  After they describe the bus scene, they bring the reader back into that Marriott Hotel room where Landis is telling the story to the feds. The transition is natural and the imagery is strong, but not forced. I am picturing the story as movie in my head.

In the following video, Stephen Colbert interviews Albergotti and O’Connell about their book. The video is worth watching (at least to get a few laughs, if you’re not interested in the subject matter). And, for me, the book will be worth reading. After all, it’s a true story about scandal, betrayal, fallen heroes, and account’s from his ex, Sheryl Crow! And perhaps a good example of in-depth reporting and narrative writing.