As a cycling fan, I read a lot of books about cycling. Many of these are by ex-dopers telling their story and how being caught changed their lives. I particularly recommend David Millar’s autobiography Racing Through the Dark and for an inside look at doping in US Postal Tyler Hamilton’s book The Secret Race is worth reading.
What never seems to be covered in their autobiographies is how their doping affected those around them. Emma O’Reilly was a sogineur (masseuse and I suppose den-mother for the riders) for US Postal during the start of the Armstrong-era, just as doping was taking it’s hold on the team. She told riders off for leaving used hypodermic needles in hotel rooms, saw the physical and psychological effects the drugs were having on the riders and even transported drugs across international borders as a ‘favour’. She told herself she was a clean sogineur, that she wasn’t going to get involved with ‘the programme’ and didn’t want to be – like many others she chose to be silent, hiding behind the code of ‘omerta’ (silence).
Eventually though this took a toll on her professional and personal life so she made the decision to leave US Postal. Journalist David Walsh contacted her about her time with US Postal and she agreed to talk about what she saw, heard and took part in. What she didn’t know at the time was how speaking out was going to dramatically effect her life or that she would be named by Walsh as the source of his information. She was bullied, belittled and threatened by Lance Armstrong through lawsuits and legal intimidation. Not only that, David Walsh, the Sunday Telegraphy and the publishers behind his book hung her out to dry as well.
I’ve always respected David Walsh for his unrelenting pursuit of the truth behind dark side of cycling but having read the other side of the story (as it were) I feel he is as dirty as everyone else. It becomes clear he knew what was going to happen to Emma, that Armstrong was going to target her and instead of helping her, Walsh just sat back and let it all happen. Probably because it made for a good story.
Reading her book, it’s hard not to like Emma. She’s very straight forward and there’s something very endearing about her referring to riders as “the lads”. It’s clear that she loved her job and had respect amongst the peleton but she became victim to petty male egos. I would highly recommend reading this in addition to all the “I doped, here’s how it ruined my professional life, I’m sorry” stories from the pro-peleton just to see how the doping culture affected not just the riders.