Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tyler Hamilton, Victim Or Villain?

Ed Hood interviews Tyler Hamilton - my roommate during a try-out with Montgomery-Bell - for PEZ. It's the first I've heard from the "Engima" since he basically went into hiding after his second positive, and the interview is fascinating and accompanied by great photos. Love him or hate him, I hope that Tyler's battle with depression is one that he wins, because it's in those darkest moments that one can pass irretrievably into the abyss. If you could only ask Luca Gelfi or Christophe Dupouey, they'd say the same, I'm sure.

I'm reproducing the intro to the interview here, along with the first question and two photos. Click through to Pez for the full text and the complete portfolio of magnificent images. And remember, as I wrote in August, mental illness haunts pro sports - and athletes are humans, too, with limited coping mechanisms and breaking points and only a finite capacity to suffer, even if you perceive that limit to be infinitely greater than your own. Because of the complexity of the calculus that athletes must make when deciding whether or not to dope, it is nearly impossible for punters and laymen and even recreational racing cyclists who've never practiced sport as a profession to truly understand the intersection between villain, victimization, criminal innocent and naive man-child, yet so many have no qualms about screaming in black and white "Dopers Suck!" and "Go back to your cave and die!" But most athletes caught doping didn't start practicing sport in order to become modern-day lepers and outcasts, drug traffickers or even, in the case of David Millar, reformed, poster-boy Phoenixes who own professional cycling teams. So someone like Hamilton ... if he blew his brains out like Claveyrolat, or died alone, partially clothed in a pool of his own piss and shit and a light dusting of cocaine like Pantani ... well, I'd bet that some of you would suddenly not feel so good about having screamed "Dopers Suck!" at the 2008 USPro Champion, either virtually or in person alongside opportunists like Brandon Dwight.

Opening the piece, Hood writes,"Now that the initial furore has died down following the shocking news of Tyler Hamilton's positive doping test, PEZ thought we should hear what the man himself has to say. It took us a long time and a lot of patience, but eventually he came back to us with the answers to our questions.

Back from a two year suspension for failing a drugs test after a Vuelta time trial win - a further 'positive' from his winning ride in the Olympic time trial championships was rendered null and void due to improper storage of the 'B' sample - it looked like all of his demons were behind him in 2008, as he took the US Pro title and the prestigious Qinghai Lakes stage race in China. And then early this year came the news that had us all shaking our heads; another failed test.

But there was no prolonged denial or outrage from the man who has a Liege-Bastogne-Liege win to his credit; just a ready admission that he had taken a medication for his depressive condition which contained proscribed substances. A journalist should never ask his readers rhetorical questions; but I have to - Tyler Hamilton, sinner or sinned against?

You choose."

PEZ: When did you first feel the effects of depression?
'That's a tough question. Probably when I was a young teenager. Looking back, I would have to say during my mid-teen years is when I first experienced symptoms of depression. It was sort of like being in a bit of a fog at times. I was always a quiet and shy kid and I spent a lot of time questioning myself...'

Continue reading the Tyler Hamilton interview at Pez Cycling News.


  1. The interview is nothing but tired old garbage, and Pez proves once again that they have the journalistic integrity comparable to that of a junior high cheerleader.

    How patently obvious is it that Tyler's depression comes from his inability to be honest with himself or anyone else? His whole life is a sham, and he continues to try to hide from reality. Its pretty simple, and pretty sad, really...


  2. Fair enough, Burt. Maybe Hamilton was depressed all along, however, and his inability "to be honest with himself..." is just a manifestation of his desire not to be honest with himself about being depressed? And what would he gain by standing up and saying that he doped, if in fact he did dope (I mean, besides the two times he was found guilty of doping - lol). Seriously though, if his depression doesn't stem from lying about doping (which you assume it does) why would he want to admit to cheating and face the potential liability (financial or otherwise) that could go along with it, and basically have his life put into the garbage disposal again? Just to satisfy your blood-lust?



  3. I don't have any "blood lust" for the guy...hell, I feel sorry for him. I feel bad for anyone who suffers like he obviously is.

    I guess there is always the slim chance that the root cause of his depression really ISN'T the fact that his life is a sham, and there's an even slimmer chance that he was clean. I doubt it though, and I doubt even less that he's ever going to get over his issues until he starts being honest with himself and everyone else.

    The truth will set you free...Tyler's still trapped.


  4. All I'm saying is that it seems to me that TH contends that the depression existed in and of itself long before he started doping (we know he doped - he admitted it, albeit "only" with DHEA). If he's been close to the edge already, I fail to see how a public confession is going to help the guy - if anything, it would make things worse because he would lose all his supporters, even those who willfully ignored the significant circumstantial evidence that indicated he was doped by Fuentes (the Haven fax, for example). Because if he admits his guilt, then they can't believe he didn't do it - b/c he's telling them as much.

    I find it highly unlikely that the root cause of his depression is that his cycling career was, in part, a sham. He states on the record that he was showing signs of clinical depression as a teen, and I know for a fact that he wasn't already doping at Holderness School to compete on the ski team. If the guy is clinically depressed, then "the truth" has nothing to do with unlocking the door to recovery. Because he's depressed independent of any environmental stressors. Sure, they can make the overall condition feel worse, but eliminating the external factors doesn't make clinical depression suddenly "go away" with a Poof!

    Anyway, since he contends he didn't do it (the first time) but admits he did it the second time (albeit with a joke substance), isn't that enough of a public confession for you? Let him keep his doped L-B-L win and other results so that he's not bankrupted and pushed towards suicide. Afterall, it's not like Iban Mayo (2nd at Liege behind T.H. in 2003) was cheated out of a "clean" victory but a "dirty" Hamilton.

  5. Shit. I just went through the entire results sheet for LBL 03 and marked off all the dopers (there were a shitload) to make the point that Hamilton was busted, did his time, got busted again, and is gone for good - but wasn't doing anything that more than half of the top-41 finishers weren't either, ergo why should he have to make a public apology or admit anything...but I failed to save the comment w/ the list. SO you get this lame piece instead. You guys figure it out:

    1. Tyler Hamilton (USA) CSC, at 6:28:50
    2. Iban Mayo Diez (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 00:12
    3. Michael Boogerd (Nl) Rabobank , at 00:14
    4. Michele Scarponi (I) Domina Vacanze - Elitron, at 00:21
    5. Francesco Casagrande (I) LAM, at 00:29
    6. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 00:29
    7. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp), at 00:29
    8. Danilo Di Luca (I) Saeco, at 00:29
    9. Eddy Mazzoleni (I) Sidermec Vini Caldirola, at 00:29
    10. Ivan Basso (I) Fassa Bortolo, at 00:29
    11. Frank Vandenbroucke (B) Quick Step-Davitamon, at 00:40
    12. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp) Phonak, at 00:40
    13. Davide Rebellin (I) Gerolsteiner, at 00:40
    14. Gianni Faresin (I) Gerolsteiner, at 00:40
    15. Patrik Sinkewitz (G) Quick Step-Davitamon, at 00:40
    16. Andrea Noe (I) Alessio, at 00:40
    17. Aitor Osa Eizaguirre (Sp), at 00:42
    18. Matthias Kessler (G) Telekom, at 00:42
    19. David Etxebarria Alkorta (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 00:45
    20. Lance Armstrong (USA) U.S. Postal Service, at 00:50
    21. Mirko Celestino (I) Saeco, at 01:04
    22. Michele Bartoli (I) Fassa Bortolo, at 01:13
    23. Walter Beneteau (F) Brioches La Boulangere, at 01:13
    24. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Alessio, at 01:15
    25. Angel Vicioso Arcos (Sp) ONCE - Eroski, at 01:15
    26. Christophe Moreau (F) Credit Agricole, at 01:25
    27. David Canada Garcia (Sp) Quick Step-Davitamon, at 01:25
    28. Manuel Beltran Martinez (Sp) Coast, at 01:27
    29. Jan Ullrich (G) Coast, at 01:27
    30. Axel Merckx (B) Lotto-Domo, at 02:00
    31. Wladimir Belli (I) LAM, at 02:00
    32. Cristian Moreni (I) Alessio, at 03:05
    33. Aleksandr Shefer (Kaz) Saeco, at 03:27
    34. Igor Astarloa (Sp) Saeco, at 03:27
    35. Oscar Freire Gomez (Sp) Rabobank , at 03:59
    36. Carlos Sastre Candil (Sp) CSC, at 03:59
    37. Nicki Sorensen (Dk) CSC, at 03:59
    38. Oscar Mason (I) Sidermec Vini Caldirola, at 03:59
    39. Gerrit Glomser (AUT) Saeco, at 03:59
    40. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo, at 04:05
    41. Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank , at 05:26
    42. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit) LAM, at 05:28

  6. Maybe he was 'depressed' before he started being a cheat at cycling. I bet he probably was...that said, I still contend that the reason that he's in the shape he is now is at least partially due to his lack of honesty.

    Rgarding the assertion that "all those guys were doping": this is, of course, true. If Tyler would acutally make the argument that his results were legit because everyone he beat was also on dope (like Vandenbroucke did), I'd have a lot more respect for him, since he'd at least be telling the truth about his drug use. As it is, he's still lying, and (worse) allowing others to go out and lie for him. You might think that analysis is unfair, but what's really unfair is what happened to the few clean guys out there that Tyler cheated. the end of it all I hope he finds his answer.


  7. OK Burt, I see where you're going with this and i'm willing to contend the point that Hamilton might be in better shape now if he cleared his conscience by admitting to being the fraud that two positive doping controls would seem to indicate he is. Of course, I don't think he would do that because of the potential liability ... after all, doesn't Tinkov owe him some big bucks still?

    As for Tyler cheating a few clean guys, I don't know who you mean there, as the top-5 of LBL all were busted for the time you get to a clean rider, they were probably a step below Hamilton on the natural talent meter anyway. But yeah, the facade is just that...not real. Probably one of the reasons why he's gotten the hell out of the public spotlight in the past year - to avoid having to propagate the falsehoods any more than necessary.

  8. " the few guys he cheated"......pleaseeeeeeee>>there was not 1 guy in the top 50 ( did 50 finish ?) of L-B-L 03 that wasn`t doin something....they weren`t cheatin anyone or anything ;except their long term a perfect world it would be wonderful to have clean -non doping athletes but reality is/was if ya didn`t dope you were probably lookin for another job


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