Tyler Hamilton talks to National Junior Team on perils of doping
By Tommy Schield//USA Swimming Communications
USA Swimming hosted the National Junior Team camp April 5-7 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It focused on training, educating and motivating the campers and featured some notable guest speakers.
On April 5, cyclist Tyler Hamilton told the 66 campers his story. Although most campers didn’t know the former professional road cyclist’s full story, they did know of his connection to doping.
“I don’t really know Tyler’s whole story,” said Junior National Teamer Jack Conger of Rockville, Md. “I really hope to just learn why it’s so important to compete clean no matter what everyone else is doing.”
Hamilton had a successful cycling career, winning the Tour de France three times and also capturing the gold medal in the individual time trial at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
On the outside, he had it all. Hamilton rang the bell on Wall Street, threw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game, and kept signing endorsements.
Despite the success, it felt empty.
“Although winning felt good, it did not feel right,” Hamilton said. “I knew I wasn’t winning the right way, and I was leading a double life. I had to lie to the people I cared about, including my father. The best way to describe it was my life was like an onion. On the outer layer everything seemed great, but just one layer in, it clearly wasn’t.”
The auditorium was quiet as Hamilton continued to tell his story to the campers.
In 1997, Hamilton was offered a tiny red pill by a team doctor. The pill was testosterone, which later led him to EPO and eventually blood doping.
“I was not prepared for this situation in 1997,” said Hamilton. “I want you to be prepared for the tough choices you may face ahead of you. Begin thinking about how you’ll handle that question today. You’re all in a great situation, and you have a strong support system with coaches, friends, mentors and even (United States Doping Agency) is there the help.”
Jack Roach, USA Swimming National Junior Team Director, sought out Hamilton to speak to these swimmers. Roach thought the kids could face similar circumstances in their career, and felt it important to hear Hamilton’s story.
“His story was truly amazing,” said Conger, who made his fourth visit to the OTC this weekend. “He helped me realize that you really need to understand the consequences of your actions.”
When Hamilton wrapped up his presentation, he opened the floor to questions. One after another, the questions came pouring in. With more than 20 questions already answered – and hands still in the air – the Q&A came to a close as the campers needed to return to the dorm for curfew.
As the students were dismissed, several approached Hamilton and thanked him for telling his story, which is exactly why Hamilton wanted to speak.
“Right now, I’m trying to lead by example and help others through my story and my decisions,” Hamilton said.