FGR #70

The other shoe has not dropped. It is actually raining shoes now. Tyler Hamilton’s doping confession, grand-jury induced or 60-Minutes inspired, is just the latest drop in the Armstrong-eroding downpour.

I’ll come straight to the (question) point. How do we feel about this?

Hamilton was going to be the next Armstrong, the first Lance domestique to break free of the US Postal orbit. His days at CSC and Phonak were full of promise and gritty almost-wins. We all recall the broken collarbone that Hamilton rode through to fourth place in the 2003 Tour de France. He had broken a shoulder and still finished second in the preceding year’s Giro d’ Italia.

And yet, for all Hamilton’s hard man brilliance and quiet humility, his long history of blood doping violations, suspensions, denials and recriminations turned many of his erstwhile fans against him. In the end, he was banned for eight years for a final doping positive related to DHEA. It was a whimper of capitulation, rather than a bang of vindication.

His marriage dissolved. He was treated for depression. It was all a heavy price to pay for heavy crimes against the sport.

Now a cycling coach living in Colorado, Hamilton appears to be coming out of the dope-fueled haze of his racing career. As with Floyd Landis before him, Hamilton’s motivations will be parsed and questioned. His credibility will be debated. It is hard for a long-time liar to re-establish himself. Ask Landis. But in a room full of liars, where does the truth actually live?

And yet, here is another former-Armstrong aide corroborating the stories and suspicions, impeaching both the greatest American champion and the sport’s governing body with simple confirmations of what many of us have believed for some time. In the end, does this say more about cycling or about Hamilton’s own often bizarre role in the doping soap opera of the last two decades? Is this a turning point, or just another way station on the road to dope-free cycling?

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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20 comments

  1. Burns

    It’s been close to 24hrs since Tyler’s declaration and the UCI has not spoken yet. I wonder when they’ll add him to their libel case against Landis.

    Meanwhile, Contador is flying up the mountains.

    How can I possibly believe the peloton is getting cleaner?

    I’m ceasing to care.

    Lets go ride our bikes.

  2. fausto

    Hincape’s reaction of “lets move on and stop dirtying the sport”, “no comment” sounds like he is trying not to comment or contradict what he has already confirmed in testimony. He will be the nail in the coffin. Jim Och. continues like Andy Rhiss to deny deny deny. Amazing how innocent those so close to the heart of this are. Remember the US team blood dopping at the Olympics all of those years ago? LA, TH, FL, GH, just the next generation doing it differently.

  3. Dave

    This is neither a “turning point” nor “another way station on the road to dope-free cycling.” There may be some brief wailing and hand wringing, but it will pass. Then, it will be back to normal: outraged and indignant denials and a peloton that is doped to the gills by whatever method is currently in vogue and one step ahead of the testing. I love cycling, but I have become incredibly cynical. I would love to believe in a mythical world populated by unicorns and clean riders, but I fear that I’m more likely to see unicorns before I see a clean peloton.

  4. kathy

    Sorry to say, this does not feel important to me. And seems to detract from cycling in general. I do not care to participate in a witch hunt of past competitors. I would prefer to see the negative energy put towards cleaning up cycling for the new cyclists heading into the ranks. Keep them from being exposed to this peer pressure and let attrition clean up the rest.

  5. Ransom

    Which way out? I mean, is there any way to get from here to clean?

    Many sports have histories which are tangled with behavior, within or outside the rules, which go against what fans and even participants want the sport to be.

    I’m impressed with the people who won, even on EPO. I feel terrible for those who stayed clean and wound up in the shadows of their artificially tall contemporaries.

    It’s not that it has no importance, because I think what actually happened and why needs to be understood. But I find myself wondering whether everything that’s bound up in what people have already done creates too much noise in the discussion of how to have a clean start which is actually clean.

    There are too many motivations-understandable if ignoble-for tortured interpretations, “foggy” recollections, suits, appeals, transactions… Can we simplify the discussion of what must be done by separating it from the discussion of what has come and gone?

  6. David Hendry

    As long as there are millions at stake for winning there will be cheaters doing whatever they can to get the edge. When we stop supporting sports with our dollars they will then clean up not before. As it exists now everyone says tut tut then goes out and buys the latest multi thousand dollar bike and the coolest pro team kit and pretends to be the hero of the day charging up the alps. When we grow up and cycle for our own delight and stop paying to see these freaks of nature put on display by multi-millionaire businessmen the drugging will stop. And by the way this goes for all pro sports all over the world not just cycling.

  7. Souleur

    sorry…but i have long since left the scene of the horrific crime, it was an awful sight…and since then that horse has been flogged and beaten so badly, its hardly recognizable any longer.

    As for Hamilton, sorry to say the ‘truth now’ for such a clean conscience has been particulary blotted w/the blood stains of his own type which begs of my mind reasoning, motive and intent for such ‘purity’.

  8. mark capalbo

    He returned his gold medal today. Without being asked. I can respect someone trying to do the right thing. (But do they always have to do this when the ToC is in full swing?)

  9. MCH

    I feel a good deal of sympathy for most of these guys. They saw the way that the game was played and chose to play. Most did, a few didn’t. I’m not saying that the choise was correct, but I’m sure that it was difficult. Particularly as they got deeper into the system and the lies got bigger. It’s reasonable to believe that after years of living the lie, changing the pattern would be very difficult. Its for this reason that I don’t buy into the idea that as dopers and liers these guys have no credibility.

    At the beginning, I mentioned sympathy for most. In another post, LA was refered to as a sociopath. Its a strong word thats been running though my brain all day. For me, the idea is beginning to take hold. I’m not quite sure where the line is, but for me Tyler, George, and even Floyd are on one side and guys like Lance and Pantani are on the other.

    As a separate note, I’ll be really curious to see how the Tour of Switzerland drug test story plays out. Perhaps the UCI really has something to be worried about???

  10. Hank

    This Armstrong investigation is not just about cheating way back in the 90’s. It looks like the money trail will uncover the rot in the UCI and team management today. I expect it will have a bigger impact on current pro cycling then all previous investigations/prosecutions combined.

    The thing I will never understand is what was Armstrong thinking? He had gotten away cheating his way to a historic 7 tour wins, made multi millions, had millions of adoring fans and was practically sainted in the press. Wasn’t that enough? He had to risk coming back? And why didn’t he just pay off Floyd. He bribed regulatory authorities, ran an illegal drug ring, screwed those who crossed him what’s the big deal about buying Floyd’s silence? DId he think he had become untouchable?

    LA has only himself to blame for instigating this investigation.

  11. michael

    the only aspect of this story i care about is the revelation of the meeting with the lab director at the behest of the UCI. I don`t care anymore for any of this cast of characters and just wish someone had the cojones to come forward with all the details and end all these column inches.

    But fucking with the actual WADA lab and the process as a result of an governing body request? That is some next-level dark side of the force jedi shit.

  12. mgrif

    Like others posting here, I’m a cynic with regard to clean cycling. I don’t mind being cynical though, not this time. In the late ’90s, I was so disillusioned by the scandals that I lost my taste for cycling in general for years. Actually, through most of Lance’s years at the TdF.

    Thankfully, cycling found me again, and now my own cycling enjoyment is not affected by the cheaters and liars. My response was, It Figures. I still enjoy watching the races, but I do it for the spectacle, and don’t pin that much value on who actually gets on the podium.

    So, I didn’t watch 60 Minutes yesterday. Instead, I had a great, fast 70-mile ride with the guys.

  13. eric

    I agree that the revelation of these recent events point to the “system” of cycling and not the riders. At some point along the way, Hamilton and others were victims of corruption of the worst kind.

    The parallels to other failures of institutions and organizations are plenty (i.e. child molestation at the hands of ordained priests). I would like to believe that this is the beginning of a new era.

    On a lighter note, I did watch the 60Minutes piece and really enjoyed Frankie’s honest, if angry assessment of what was going on in the peloton during his early pro career. He told it like it was (is).

  14. KB

    Tyler, Lance et al are the past…the guy getting the shaft is Chris Horner who took a commanding win at the ATOC. He did it in style, with a smile on his face and he’s hardly getting any props. And for the second year in a row the ATOC had to endure news being put out about this past BS…they can’t seem to get a break either.

  15. Trev

    @ KB :Who’s going to give props to Horner? The guy who only seemed to find his ‘true form’ around the age of 37. Horner is as dirty or dirtier than everyone else.

  16. pdx velo

    @ Trev-
    OR more likely, Horner was always clean, got booted from FDJ because of it, and is now kicking ass as Levi, Piti and the other guys actually cleaned up. The redneck is kicking ass because the field is leveling and he actually is one of those one in a million athletes

  17. beth h

    They are almost all doping. They have been for years. And sponsors and team managers/owners will continue to make their money off the whole enterprise because fan still tune in, or clog the roadsides, to watch; and they buy the goodies advertised in the bike mags and wear the fake jerseys to ape their heros.

    What-freakin’-ever.

    Chomsky was right. It’s all bread and circuses.

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