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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tyler Hamilton: Confessor and witness

Hamilton admits to seeing Armstrong inject EPO

Many months have past with no news from the federal investigation into whether or not Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs.  Now, on Thursday evening, suddenly another bomb shell along the lines of Floyd Landis' admissions and allegations last year during the Tour of California.  

Tyler Hamilton, who rode with the US Postal Service team from 1998-2001, was interviewed by "60 Minutes."  The full interview will air on Sunday night, but the CBS Evening News on Thursday ran a short clip from it:

Corroboration or duplicity?  You be the judge

Not so surprising was the response from Armstrong's attorneys, who have chosen to stick to the tactic of assassinating the messenger.  According to them, Hamilton has "duped the CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes and Scott Pelley all in one fell swoop."  But the hyperbole does not stop there.  Now the language around Armstrong's never failing a test is "500 tests over 20 years of competition."  We have seen the number of times he has been tested discussed in the discussion board in other places, and the math is always a bit fuzzy.  The number always seemed to change and is seemingly a gross overestimate each time.  

This time around the number is 500 over 20 years. . .so an average of 25 times per year.  Except that by our calculations he did not compete for 20 years, and instead the number is closer to 16-17 years, and only if we include his amateur racing days:

1990-91:  Subaru
1992-96:  Motorola
1998-2005:  US Postal
2009:  Astana
2010:  RadioShack

And does anyone here believe that any pro cyclist was tested up to 25 times per year in the 1990s?  Or how about US amateurs in 1990-91?  But especially a rider like Lance Armstrong prior to 1999, when he was a mid-pack racer with mediocre palmares, excluding his 1993 World Championship?  It's classic "messaging" to keep the message on something else other than the allegations.  It begs the question of who is doing the duping, Hamilton or Armstrong's attorneys.

Hamilton also alleges that Armstrong admitted to him that he failed a drug test during the 2001 Tour de Suisse, an allegation we first heard from Landis last year.  The problem is that Landis' allegation has been public for a year now, so until more details come out about that specific event between Hamilton and Armstrong, that allegation remains an easy target for Armstrong proponents.  

Hamilton confesses

In a letter meant for what appears to be family and close friends but published on Cyclingnews.com, Hamilton confesses to his own doping.  And the thing that stands out in Hamilton's confession as well as Landis' from last year, is that these guys are burdened by the lies and deceit.  As well they should be, because they are not trained to live lies and keep a clear conscience.  There is such a profession for that, however---covert operatives in the CIA live double lives for years and years with no apparently ill consequences of it.  The athletes, though, are not trained to do that.  It requires a special personality type and skill set, and the cyclists are trained to race and compete, not to hoard secrets and live a lie.  Until we start a "Psychology of Sport" site, all we can say is the the psychology here is complex.  The Sports Psychologists and others can please chime in here with their comments, but for now we will leave the psycho-analysis at that.

Predictable reaction?

The reactions from the peleton will likely be two dimensional, with riders either condemning the liars and deceivers Landis and Hamilton, saying the past is the past, or those agreeing there is a problem but that now we are really making progress.  Or will it?  One has to wonder  if admissions by first Landis and now Hamilton will show others that it is ok to speak up?  The optimists out there will hold out that eventually the tide will turn, and we reach that "tipping point" when it now becomes acceptable to speak out.  It is anyone's guess what will happen after that, except at least those riders might be unburdened from any guilt they carry within themselves.

For now we will measure the fall out, if any, of this latest turn in the ongoing saga.  With the action heating up in the Giro and the Tour of California, all eyes should be on the racing, but yet again cycling cannot shake the doping issue.


Marc Hansen said...

The "tipping point" will come when the message that "everyone is doing it so we have no choice (in order to compete)" becomes the main focus. It's like a Mexican Standoff where everyone is afraid to put down their syringe.

carson said...

Cycling can't shake the doping issue because the cyclists can't shake their habit/dependence.