Hamilton. Worth it?
Sort of like watching the first film at the USADA Anti-Doping film festival, right?
There is now a film clip meets cautionary tale on Travis Tygart’s favorite website in which the former Postie, Lance lieutenant and eventual Tour rival Tyler Hamilton gives us his end-take on a sordid career of drugs and lies.
“It wasn’t worth it.”
Well, that’s certainly true for once-professed boy scout Hamilton who lost pretty much everything when his shit hit all the fans. You don’t make too much money as a private cycling coach with a checkered past. The general media noise and a few threats from Lance Armstrong in an Aspen, Colorado bar chased him all the way to Montana.
Me, I always kinda liked Hamilton but I liked him way more when he admitted to doping and I liked him the most when I read his book, the Secret Race, co-written by skilled storyteller Daniel Coyle. Every page felt like pure honestly, like diary pages, unfiltered, uncut truth.
But I wonder about the “wasn’t worth it” part. I can’t say I really believe that. Offered as summation and final truth, there’s a whiff of just doing this as penance and trying to be a good role model now. I get that, I applaud the effort. It’s pure public service message and therefor lacks a certain nuance.
Like, damn, that was a wild, crazy, sick, weird but often exhilarating ride.
The man won a stage in the Tour, he took his GC shots at Lance in the Tour, he led a top squad in grand tours, scored an Olympic medal, was on the cover and home page of countless magazines and websites. So while the scared straight, don’t do what I did routine is admirable, the full story is missing.
There was a truckload of fun in riding with Lance and kicking ass all over France. Stepping onto the podium at the Olympics, dirty secret or not, had to be quite a rush. And yeah, we get it, we don’t know what that double life feels like and the implications it dumps on a person. Still, a great party is a great party and nobody is really counting your drinks.
People handle the post-doping life differently. George Hincapie is living large, owns a thriving sports apparel business, runs a cool cycling destination hotel and a high profile development team. Can’t really imagine Big George saying “It wasn’t worth it.” I didn’t even mention the hot French former podium girl wife. Chapeau George.
Alexander Vinokourov is a state hero in Kazakstan, runs the Astana WorldTour team and probably has a pretty sweet financial setup. I suspect he is not one to cry into his pillow at night. “It wasn’t worth it” isn’t really his mindset or even part of his vocabulary. He’s too busy writing inflammatory letters to Vincenzo Nibali about race results.
Christian Vande Velde is a well-liked cycling commentator at big US bike races and the Tour de France. Nobody is throwing him out of the TV booth. His opinions are respected and he seems more than happy to be a part of the big show. Again, “not worth it” doesn’t seem part of the conversation.
The charming David Millar has a new line of stylish cycling apparel in a partnership with Castelli. He is some sort of cycling ambassador. He attends events, offers his clever twitter commentary, he’s that devilish man-about-cycling. Not worth it? Don’t really think so. Shame, depression, embarrassment — sure, but do the final math and we doubt the “not worth it” sentiment.
Alejandro Valverde, Bjarne Riis, Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer, Stuart O’Grady, Richard Virenque, Laurent Jalabert … would these guys go to the media and look in the camera and say with a strong, steady voice, “It wasn’t worth it?” Don’t think so. Life turned out pretty darn well for them all, one way or another. People forget your transgressions and you’ve still got that big house paid off.
This is actually not to throw out a Crank Punk-style rant about the evils of the world seen in black or white without the human shade of grey. I actually like Vande Velde, Julich and Millar and who cannot respect on some deeper level, Big George’s loyalty and big smile humility? I’m in my 50’s, I understand grey.
Hamilton told Lance Armstrong that the truth would set him free. Lance isn’t exactly buying that line of logic. It may be that in the grand scheme of karma that Tyler Hamilton is the only man truly living in the light, unburdened, free from the past and asking nothing of it. That make him the wisest man in the bunch. He’s also in Montana with an income the IRS doesn’t even need to pay attention to.
We hope he is truly happy with “it wasn’t worth it.”