True life racing thriller Doped wins the 25th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang has won the 2013 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for journalist Jamie Reid.

The saga of 1960s turf skullduggery, in which a crooked bookmaker and his glamorous mistress, plus miscellaneous  gangsters, bent stable lads and a drug supplier nicknamed 'the Witch Doctor', conspired to nobble high-profile racehorses, won the vote of the judges to clinch the 25th anniversary award from a field that included two other tales of cheating in sport from the worlds of cycling and cricket.

Seven Deadly Sins, in which journalist David Walsh recounts his pursuit of the disgraced Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy, which reveals many truths and destroys some myths about match-fixing in cricket, were both close contenders.

A six-strong shortlist also included the straight-talking and grittily honest football autobiography I Am Zlatan Ibrahomivic, the story of an heroic Olympic rowing eight, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, and David Epstein's fascinating The Sports Gene.

But award judge and broadcaster John Inverdale, who revealed the winner at The Hospital Club in London's Covent Garden live on BBC Radio Four, explained that Doped had the edge.

"Sometimes it takes the panel five minutes and sometimes five hours and this year we were heading towards the upper end of that scale, but for a book that engages, fascinates and grips through to its climax, and is surely destined for either the big or the small screen, the winner is Doped," he said.

Financial Times columnist Reid, who received a cheque for £25,000 among other prizes, admitted that he had been, to a degree, sitting on the story of Britain's biggest and most audacious horse-nobbling racket since he was a small boy.

"I first heard about it, literally, at my grandmother's knee when I was about seven," he said. "She used to share the Sporting Life with me, introduced me to the magnificent, incomparable Peter O'Sullevan and she left me aware that there was a big story there that had never been fully told.


"I've been a lifelong racing enthusiast and always loved the gambling side of racing and, I have to say, been attracted to this aura of skullduggery and chicanery that is part of that.

"Working as a journalist, writing other racing books and getting to know people in the bookmaking fraternity I gradually became aware that the story was more incredible than I could have imagined, this relationship between Bill (Roper, the bent bookmaker) and his lover, Micheline (Lugeon) and all the incredible cast of toffs and spivs that floated around them.  It was an absolute pleasure and a joy to write."

Reid revealed that there had been several approaches from film-makers gripped by Doped's thriller-like narrative about taking the drama to the screen, the latest of which had been received only on Tuesday of this week.

William Hill spokesman, and co-founder of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said:  “Jamie Reid’s brilliantly constructed book lures the reader into his masterly recreation of late 50s/early 60s England in which social class counted for far more than workplace competence. Nowhere more so than in the historically class-ridden world of horseracing. ‘Toffs’ ruled the roost in outwardly posh, yet archaic, stables and racecourse stewards’ rooms, but were constantly at financial and social war with cunning, street-wise, working-class ‘bookies’, who were tolerated only as outlets for personal wagers, the settling of which was frequently lax when losing.

“This background, generously scattered with sex and drugs and royalty, is the setting for a perfectly researched, paced and plotted unravelling of probably the most shocking, cynical, sustained attempt to dope – sometimes fatally – innocent racehorses and endanger jockeys for personal gain, to come to light in the 500 year history of the sport of Kings, Queens and commoners.”

The judging panel comprised Inverdale alongside broadcaster Danny Kelly, award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd, under the supervision of the chairman of the panel, John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang, by Jamie Reid, is published by Racing Post Books.

Read more about Jamie Reid's book

The full shortlist:

The Boys in the Boat: An Epic True-Life Journey to the Heart of Hitler's Berlin (Macmillan), is among six titles shortlisted for the 2013 William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize.  The others are:

Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong(Simon & Schuster), by David Walsh

I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Penguin), the autobiography of the Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket's Underworld(Bloomsbury), by Ed Hawkins

Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang (Racing Post Books), by Jamie Reid .

The Sports Gene: What Makes the Perfect Athlete (Yellow Jersey Press), by David Epstein.

More reading:

William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2013: The Longlist

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's bid to make history

Match fixing: cricket's heart of darkness

Lance Armstrong: one journalist's tireless quest for the truth 

The working-class rowers who stunned Hitler



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