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Exclusive: Q&A with ‘The Secret Race’ authors

VN: Tyler, you said Armstrong was one of the best athletes in the world. But given how much you write about what a brilliant doctor Michele Ferrari was, and that he was forbidden from working with Tour de France contenders other than Armstrong, could an argument be made that he won because, at least in part, he had the best doping doctor in the world?

DC: I’d like to take that on, because you’re getting into the question of a level playing field — that if everyone is doping, then it’s a level playing field. I think this book explodes that myth. And it is a myth. When everyone can dope, it becomes a contest of who has the best information, who has the best access, who has the best doctor, and who has the most money. That’s what this contest is — it’s a chess game of information, connections and money. And whoever wins that chess game has the better chance of winning the Tour. What happens when you have a situation when there aren’t strong regulations, and people can dope, it’s the opposite of a level field, it’s a hugely distorted playing field, and it’s tilted toward people with access, with information and with money. And that’s the game you want to avoid playing. The level playing field of doping is a total myth.

TH: As I became more experienced and I moved up the totem pole, and became a team leader, your responsibilities as a rider, they expect you to… it wasn’t like I was blood doping my whole career, but when you’re making enough money, it’s the next step. You’re expected to make that happen.

VN: In terms of the timing of the book, with everything going on with Armstrong’s federal case, the USADA investigation, Jonathan Vaughters’ public admission — how able were you to orchestrate the publication date?

DC: We’re very fortunate, but we started this project more than two years ago, and what you realize when you start having these conversations is that this truth is too big not to come out at some point. And it might be a federal investigation, it might be a USADA investigation, it might be this or that, but gravity was going to take hold at some point. The physics of this was too big. We started working on the book with the trust, and the faith, that the truth would be told at some point. The timing has worked out, as luck would have it, that the book is coming out right as this other stuff is going down, but it’s not like we knew, going into it, that things would work out in this way.

VN: Vaughters provided several passages in the book, and we saw his doping admission in The New York Times about a month ago. Was that a coordinated effort?

DC: No, I just think it’s all related, it’s just the truth is bubbling up. We saw the federal investigation, the USADA investigation, and the conversations are being had. It’s a natural percolation; it’s not something that was orchestrated on our part.

TH: I’m sure [Vaughters] knew this book was coming out, and he wanted a certain amount of security.

DC: It’s kind of a cool element of the story — these are guys who were teammates years ago, who shared some of the most intense experiences you could in life, racing together, and they have been divided by this secret for a long time, and now, in a weird way, they are sort of teammates again, in telling the truth.

VN: The book is out, and the story is still unfolding. We don’t yet know how the UCI will treat USADA’s sanction, and even today we see that California legislators are asking to have USADA’s funding scrutinized. Once publicity for the book is done, is it over for you two? Or where do you go from here?

DC: The conversation has started. There are a lot of elements to this story — personal elements, sporting elements, scientific elements, legal elements — that are going to spool forward. Let’s just keep the conversation going.

TH: We’ve opened a can of worms here. This book was written, for me, because I love the sport of cycling. In order to truly move forward, we need to clear out some of the questions of the past. I’m not just going to finish the book and disappear and live happily ever after… I’ll do whatever I can to help. I’m planning on going into schools and sharing my experience with younger kids, just to let them know that sometimes you make poor decisions when you are in tough places, but there really never is a point of no return. I felt like I lied so much, I was at the point of no return. Little did I know that testifying before a federal grand jury would be the first step to coming out of a dark cloud.

VN: In the book you wrote about feeling as though your phone and computer were bugged, or that you were being followed, following your interview on “60 Minutes.” You wrote that the feeling quickly went away once the federal investigation was shut down. Now that the book has come out, has that continued? Do you worry there could be recriminations?

TH: I hope you understand, but I probably shouldn’t comment on that right now. But at some point I will.

VN: Can you talk, in general terms about the toll your testimony, and this book, has taken on you?

TH: The last few years have been a great experience. In a way, Dan has been like my therapist. We’ve picked through my whole career, and I was able to have someone to talk to about it. It’s been a huge personal transformation for me. I feel great today. The book is a sad story — it’s tragic. I’m proud of what I did, but I’m not proud of the story.

DC: But there is a redemptive story built into it, as anyone who knows you can see. People are saying the Tyler we are seeing now is the Tyler we knew back in 1993, there is a real redemption at the core of this, which you feel when you read the book. I can testify, as a reporter, seeing the transformation that the story has had on Tyler as he has told it, as he has been open, and told his family. It’s been moving to see, and it’s been powerful. It’s a tragedy, but with a real comeback spirit.

TH: It’s just been a huge weight off my shoulders.

DC: I think the weight of the secret is so great that when you stop telling it, the act of writing the book is more of a catharsis than a stress. When Tyler and I first started talking, when he first started telling me his story, it was very halting. As a reporter I could effortlessly write down every word he said, by hand. But as we got into this, after three months, six months, a year, he started talking faster and faster, and I couldn’t keep up with him. He was just letting it go, and it was nice to see that looseness, and that comfort, it was nice to see this transformation, this guy coming out of this secret life he’d been living for a long time. The weight of the secret is great, and when you get out from under it, it changes you for the better.

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