Oct 1, 2012

Tyler Hamilton made me hate Lance Armstrong

Well, perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. “Loathe” and “despise” are probably better choices. And thinking a bit more about it, Hamilton really didn’t make me feel anything; Armstrong took care of that himself.

Any delusions I had about Armstrong having won his seven tours clean passed so long ago, I don’t dare take a stab at a date. I’ve known he was a cheat who broke the rules to win, but that didn’t make me loathe or despise him. It gained him zero points on the respect scale, but that was about it.

Then, The Secret Racecame out, written by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. My knee-jerk reaction was the desire to read the book, coupled with the uncomfortable feeling of allowing someone (Hamilton) to further profit from doping by writing about doping. I was able to resolve my dilemma by borrowing the book from a friend, and thus avoiding depositing any further royalty profit into Hamilton’s account.

Of course, as many you would probably love to point out, Coyle would also be missing out on the profit having done nothing wrong. Prior to having read the book, I would have told you that I’m OK with that because he’s helping an ex-doper make more money from the ex-doping and that shouldn’t be rewarded either. However, after having finished reading the borrowed copy, it had such a profound effect on me, I bought my own copy.

So how is it that this book inspired all these negative emotions toward Armstrong? Well, I dislike cheats. I have no respect for someone who breaks the rules to gain a competitive advantage. Period. However, while I merely lack respect for cheats, I reserve "loathe and despise" for hypocrites.

Armstrong was a hypocrite because while he expected everyone to keep quiet and be loyal to him, to the team and to the concept of omertà, he apparently had no qualms about calling the UCI and reporting athletes whose performance he deemed “not normal,” i.e., they rode better than he did. While the book only mentions Hamilton learning about Armstrong’s call from Landis, there were a couple questions left unanswered for me.

The book is organized in chronological order, and it seemed odd to me that riders would get caught as they were getting closer and closer to beating Lance. Coincidence? Perhaps, but if Landis is to be believed about the incident with Hamilton, how do we know that Armstrong didn’t call the UCI to report other riders in the peloton?

Another interesting wrinkle for which I find no answer in the book is the blood mixup. Apparently, Hamilton accidentally transfused someone else’s blood (on more than one occasion), while having donated only his to his doctor, de Moral. I choose to believe Hamilton when he says he was always under the impression he was transfusing his own blood. 

As Hamilton learned, de Moral was not only helping a handful of cycling stars, but anyone who could pay the bill. This raises two possibilities with regard to the blood mixup.

First is the very easy explanation. De Moral was horribly organized and mixed up blood bags. The explanation is easy, but wouldn’t have riders started dropping dead, or been rushed to hospitals in serious conditions from toxic blood? So while that explanation is plausible, it doesn’t sit right with me.

Second explanation is a bit harder to swallow, but makes a heck of a lot more sense – the mixups were done with purpose in order to ensure cyclists would test positive. This way, blood types can be matched up to avoid toxicity, but still ensure a positive test. After all, Lance knew how doping was administered. He knew that if Hamilton was tested in due course, he would have been safe. However, if Hamilton had someone else’s blood in him without knowing it, he’d be more vulnerable to a positive test, which he ultimately was. The book also makes it clear that de Moral was not the type who would have refused a generous bribe, and Armstrong was not above offering one.

When an athlete messes with his body to gain a competitive advantage, he’s a cheat. When the same athlete messes with others to ensure their failure or exclusion from the sport, he’s an asshole. And no one is a bigger asshole in cycling than Lance. My opinion, of course.

With the exception of the incident from the book (which I choose to accept as the truth)  – Landis telling Hamilton about Armstrong’s call to the UCI – the rest of what I wrote is just a guess, pure speculation. However, the Hamilton incident alone is enough on my end (my feelings don’t have degrees -- I either despise someone or not) to make up my mind about Armstrong. I simply put forth the other theories in an effort to fill holes I feel were left open, and rightly so, as they didn’t concern Hamilton directly.

Of course the 500lb gorilla in the room is the question of what exact role the UCI had in all of this?

Yes, this comes after a long, long hiatus in my blogging “career.” I’m hoping this serves as a revival and will try to post more frequently going forward. Especially now that there appears to be much to write about in the sport of cycling. 

1 comment:

  1. Sent here via Twitter, but your thoughts sum up my own almost perfectly. Fortunately, it seems like the 500lbs gorilla is gonna have its time in the sunlight come soon enough