I remember like it was yesterday …

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I remember the day like it was yesterday. I rushed home from the office so as not to miss a word. It was Thursday, January 17, 2013. The day Lance Armstrong admitted publicly to doping. It was a dark day. I had believed the lie. It was too good of a story. Cancer survivor wins 7 Tour de France titles. It was too good of a story. We all should have known better.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not a bike racer. I like to ride fast, but I am no racer. And, I don’t really follow the sport. However, as Armstrong began winning repeatedly, I would tune in to watch. And, I would encourage others to do the same. After all, this was excellence at its best.

I admire excellence. Excellence in all things, not just sports. So, understandably I was enthralled. You can understand my disappointment when he told Oprah Winfrey, and the rest of the world, that he was a cheater.

I have just read Tyler Hamilton’s book THE SECRET RACE. In it Hamilton confesses to having doped as part of the Postal team along with Armstrong. It details the extent of the doping problem in cycling and the lengths riders would go to hide their use of EPO and blood transfusions.

I am not certain why I haven’t read the book sooner. I knew of it, and watched Hamilton’s confession on 60 Minutes. Maybe I just didn’t want to believe it. Maybe this was a lie too. But I am glad I have read the book. It fills in all of the gaps, and completes the Lance Armstrong story.

The book was published before Armstrong’s public confession. He wouldn’t have come clean otherwise. He had no choice. Hamilton exposed the extent of the problem and brought Lance down.

THE SECRET RACE is a compelling read even if you are not a cyclist. It illustrates how you cannot believe what you read or hear on the news; how we as fans and spectators are manipulated by public figures – athletes, politicians, movie stars, musicians.

I applauded Tyler Hamilton for coming clean. It took a lot of courage. He lost his gold medal in the process, and the respect of many fellow racers at the time. Has the sport been cleaned up as a result? Perhaps. But I suspect the top cycling teams and their medical staff will always be one step ahead of the regulatory bodies and the testing methods. For some, winning is everything.

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15 thoughts on “I remember like it was yesterday …

  1. I read this book a couple of months ago. It was one of two books that rocked my belief in sports. Hamilton’s book was a great read. It was absorbing and detailed.

    • Yes. I read the book in a few days. Could barely put it down. Although I had heard about EPO and transfusions, it was fascinating to read about its use from one of the insiders. A compelling, but disappointing read.

  2. See, this is where I had a problem with throwing Armstrong under the bus. He didn’t cheat, using EPO and adding a pint of blood on the mountain stages. Because all of the teams did it, he was leveling the playing field. He did cheat anyone who wanted to compete “clean” though, but that is a narrow minority.

    Who, besides Greg LeMond, really rode clean between ’90 and 2001? Were there any? I know doping was a requirement on Armstrong’s team, as it likely was on many others.

    • I tried hard to understand. I have asked myself whether I would have done the same given everyone else was doing it. But he knew it was banned. He went to great lengths to hide the program and denied ever having been a user. He ridiculed and berated those that spoke out. The bottom line is that he used EPO and transfusions, knew they were banned substances, lied vehemently, and discredited those that didn’t agree. I can’t deny he was a remarkable athlete. And, like you, I am torn about this.

      • I don’t deny that he was a complete jerk about it – there’s no doubt he was a colossal putz, but keeping pace with the field isn’t “cheating”. Cheating is an unfair advantage, which he did not have. He had a level playing field. Cheating is if he was the only one taking EPO and getting the transfusions, but they were all doing it. Perhaps I’m just splitting hairs but I’d be a liar if I didn’t kick the idea around to keep up with the boys on Tuesday night… And I’m a nobody!

      • Jim, I can’t disagree. That’s the dichotomy. And, I am not sure I wouldn’t do the same to keep pace. But what bothers me most is the way he treated those who didn’t support him and his tactics; the way he used his power and influence to ruin others lives to keep the lie alive.

    • I think that’s what has bothered me most. As Jim point out above, it is a fine line whether he cheated or not. Certainly he knew EPO and transfusions were banned but the rest of the field was doing the same, and Hamilton is quick to point that out. What I have trouble accepting is the way he used his power and influence to ridicule and berate those who did not support him.

  3. I don’t follow competitive racing but even I couldn’t miss this announcement. It was disappointing and makes his achievements somewhat worthless.I’m glad it came out though as hopefully it has helped to clean up the sport a bit.

    • I was terribly disappointed. I believed him for years and felt like the French were just out to get him because he was better than any of the French racers. Hamilton’s book was a fascinating, and compelling read. I could hardly put it down. Although I had heard about the use of EPO, it was interesting to get an inside look. I think cycling is cleaner but I fear the professional teams and their “doctors” can stay 1 step ahead of the regulatory bodies and testing methods.

      I never early followed competitive cycling but would watch the tour when Armstrong was winning. These days, I seldom watch it. 🙂

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