Friday, August 31, 2012

The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton

 I have been staying away from discussions of Lance Armstrong these days. Like talking abut politics, "Lance talk" is very polarizing. He's either a massive cheater and liar or the subject of an overblown witch hunt and has never failed a test...people take sides. I have my own views that have been formed over many years of following professional cycling, from the days before Greg Lemonds victories in the Tour de France when us fans got our news about international races from a slick and beautifully photographed magazine called Winning Cycling Illustrated.

My son Andrew with Greg Lemond in 1999
Goodales  in Nashua.
I followed Greg Lemond as well as a teenaged triathlete named Lance Armstrong. There was nothing more thrilling then getting my friends and family all excited to watch Greg Lemond pull the upset over Laurent Fignon and win the final time trial and comeback victory in the 1989 Tour de France. I followed as Lance made a remarkable recovery from cancer and won his first Tour and many more, and was one of the first people to get a Livestrong bracelet. I watched his Tour victories with all the excitement and enthusiasm one could muster, but I also started hearing "more" about the "real" Lance and while he was a good cyclist, he seemed to not be a very nice person. As I learned more about the incredible rides of the professional cyclists, I also sadly realized that most of them were using illegal drugs to aid their performances.

It was gut wrenching when Floyd Landis lost his Tour victory after being caught using a testosterone patch, and then Tyler Hamilton was caught (and it wasn't due to his unborn twin), as well as many other popular European riders. It seemed like they all were tainted, well, all but Lance. I stopped watching the Tour and cycling events two years ago, just like I stopped watching the Red Sox. I want to watch a clean  sport without overpaid and overly worshiped players like the Sox or to watch a sport that was in disarray like cycling.

The Science of Sport blog has an excellent post on the many sides of the Lance Armstrong controversy. By not fighting the charges against him, I am in the camp that Lance figures this is the easiest and most pain free route to continue his denials without letting the public hear the charges and admissions of his Postal teammates.

Today I read an interesting article in Outside magazine by Mike Anderson, a close confident of Lance Armstrong for two years, before Lance went "Postal" on him and like others who crossed paths with Lance, he got a full vengeful and vindictive payback from Armstrong. This is more evidence of Lance's bullying type of behavior (or could it just be a disgruntled former employee?).

The article also mentions a book by Tyler Hamilton called The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs that will come out in a few days. I look forward to reading this one. Here is a Cycling New review and a Sports Illustrated article on the book.

"Lance worked the system ... Lance was the system," according to Tyler Hamilton.

 News of Lance will continue to polarize people, but the news keeps getting worse for Mr. Armstrong. My opinion is that Lance needs to come clean. I also don't think you can really take the victories away. There is no one to give them to: however, there should be a pretty big asterisk next to them. I just hope I don't find out one day that all the great running stars of today are just as juiced.

Update: I finished reading the book and it was a good read. There is no denying that Tyler is coming clean with the extensive details and admissions. As he repeatedly says, "The truth shall make you free." Doping sounds like a system wide epidemic in the professional (and hints of it even in the amateur circles) cycling peleton. Lance is tied down to his lies and has exerted a lot of control over the whole issue within the cycling ranks. Unfortunately due to the fact that is is not a very nice guy, it seems as though his grip is slowly being eroded and eliminated, as fellow teammates and cyclists start coming clean. It is troubling to read how easy it was for cyclists to dope. It was easy for them, because if they didn't they would have no career and it was easy enough for them to find, use, and discover the newest ways to cheat the system in order to keep up.


JR said...

Just ran into your blog. Outside has two articles/reviews on Hamilton's book you may want to read as well.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks for the links. It is going to be an interesting ride for Tyler over the next few weeks (and for Lance).