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Seven Deadly Sins, the chasing Lance book by David Walsh should be a set text for aspiring sports writers. Probe, don't be a fan

‘What did Mary and Joseph do with the gold?’

David Walsh was right all along. We know that now. He never bought into the Lance Armstrong myth. He wrote about his suspicions from the very first of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories. Walsh, chief sportswriter with The Sunday Times, was recently recognised by his peers, winning both the Sports Writer of the Year and Journalist of the Years Award at the British Journalism Awards. 

His new book ‘Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong’ is a follow-up to the banned-in-Britain LA Confidential and brings the story right up to date, with the stripping of Armstrong’s titles.

The gripping tale of Walsh’s dogged, unpopular 13 year pursuit of Armstrong is made all the stronger by the personal, painful recollection of a bicycle crash. Walsh’s 12 year old son died in the crash. It’s likely he wasn’t looking at the car bearing down on him when he turned into his family’s driveway. It’s possible he was looking out for the car that would have told him his father was home, after five weeks away at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa. An hour later his father arrived home from the airport, and learned the dreadful news that his son had been been hit by a motorist: "…he died instantly. There wasn’t a mark on his face or body. It was just the force of the collision and the angle of his fall."

Walsh was able to take strength and comfort from his son’s death when told an anecdote by John’s teacher:

"Mrs Twomey told of reading the nativity to John’s class and getting to the point where she related how Mary and Jospeph lived a modest life in Nazareth because Joseph was just a carpenter. John’s hand went up.

‘"If they were so poor, what did they do with the gold they were given by the three wise men?"’

"Mrs Twomey had been reading the story of the nativity to children for more than thirty years.

‘"John, that’s the first time anyone’s asked me that. I don’t know the answer."’

David Walsh recounts this story – and repeats the ‘What did Mary and Joseph do with the gold’ line elsewhere in the book – in order to show that journalists should question everything, not take anything for granted, not swallow any company line.

"What *did* Mary and Joseph do with the gold."

The story of Lance Armstrong – the cyclist who recovered from testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France a record seven times, the man who wrote a bestselling and inspirational account of his life, the charitable benefactor – seemed almost too good to be true. And it was. Cycling’s biggest star used every weapon in his armoury to protect his name. But he could not keep everyone silent. Two months ago USADA published a damning report on Armstrong that resulted in the Texan being stripped of his seven Tour victories. Walsh’s long fight to reveal the truth had been vindicated.

Armstrong described Walsh as “the worst journalist I know,” and referred to him as “the little f***** troll,” but he could not make Walsh nor the story go away.

Walsh said: “This has been the story of my working life, thirteen years of striving to show the sports world that what I believed to be true was true. Most of the time, I believed Armstrong would get away with it, but in the end the failings in his character that made him cheat and lie and bully caught up with him. His seven stripped Tour de France titles are now recalled in the words of Travis Tygart, head of USADA, as, ‘The greatest heist in the history of sport.’”

"What *did* Mary and Joseph do with the gold."


‘Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong’ is out now in paperback and as an e-book.

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