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Apr 13, 2015 10:55 AM

After owing up to having taken illegal substances, Tyler Hamilton fights for sport to be “clean”

Winner at the 2004 Games, former American cyclist and author of the book “The Secret Race" believes that the Rio 2016 Games may be a milestone in the fight against doping

Former American cyclist Tyler Hamilton has been through the best and worst sport can offer. As a cyclist, his track record is full of achievements, among them the Tour de France and the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. But all the fame and acknowledgment – like playing the bell at the opening of the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York or being invited to throw the first pitch at a Red Sox baseball match for example – hid a dark secret, revealed by Tyler in a rather surprising manner in 2012 in a book. The book was “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs”, written by Tyler in partnership with journalist Daniel Coyle.

In the book, in addition to confessing that he took part in doping in order to win, Hamilton reveals in detail how this was done in professional cycling. In fact, he reveals how the US Postal cycling team used this, team he was part of together with super star Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times (the most important cycling event in the world) and who at the time, was one of the planet’s most influential athletes. Armstrong was stripped of his titles, banned from sport, lost sponsors and is currently facing a number of lawsuits in the United States.

After the book, Tyler took up a new cause. Today, he travels the world telling his story and alerting new, as well as experienced athletes to the risks and dangers of using illegal substances and methods in sport.

Tyler was one of the speakers at the I ABDC (Brazilian Doping Control Authority) Seminar on Anti-Doping Education, held last Tuesday (07.04) at the Military Circuit in São Paulo. The former Olympic champion, who gave his medal back and asked that his name be deleted from the Games’ records, today says that he is a happier and calmer person. For him, telling the truth was liberating. After facing difficult times, when he had to deal with depression and even suicidal thoughts, today Hamilton says to have found a way of making up for the wrong he did when he was a professional athlete.

“A way I can help in the fight against doping is to take part in events like these. Talking younger generations is important. I think we all know that cycling has been through difficult times and we need people to talk about this openly. I hope that with time we see more people doing this. I think it’s a small contribution that I can make to pay for the wrong things I did”, he stated.

Tyler Hamilton shows to be positive in relation to the strides made by anti-doping bodies. For him this will have determining impacts in the Rio 2016 Games. The former Olympic champion does not delude himself in thinking that sport competitions will be completely rid of doping, but states that the way being paved is the right one.

“To talk about an Olympic Games completely free of doping is naïve. We all know that it's still very present in sport. But I believe that we'll have the cleanest Olympic Games in recent times. It’s important to see the positive side. We have to keep on fighting hard against doping. We have to work to show that you can win cleanly".

In his presentation, Hamilton recalled his first years as a professional, when he did not use illegal substances. He would often hear his colleagues saying that he was competing “paniagua”, as it was said in Spain, where he trained. The term referred to pan y agua (bread and water), used to talk about athletes who insisted in running clean.

This phase lasted three years. Until one day in 1997, when a doctor from the team called Pedro Celaya gave him a red pill (a "little red egg” as Tyler describes in the book) and assured him that it was not doping. The pill was testosterone and from then on, there was no turning back. He started using EPO (Erythropoietin, an illegal synthetic hormone), until he started having blood transfusions for performance gain.

He is seen today as someone who has redeemed himself and is respected for his courage in revealing doping details in professional cycling. In addition, he has been travelling to several countries (every three months in general) to make such presentations.  

Luiz Roberto Magalhães
Luiz Roberto Magalhães#Tyler Hamilton talks at the I ABCD Seminar in Anti-Doping Education in São Paulo
Tyler Hamilton talks at the I ABCD Seminar in Anti-Doping Education in São Paulo


In 2004, Tyler took part in the Olympic Games in Athens and won the gold medal in the time trial, but was caught out in the doping test. However, he kept his medal because of problems in sample B. He tested positive again for illegal substances that year, in the Tour of Spain. Then, he was suspended for two years.

He went back to cycling in 2007 and in 2008 was crowned national champion in the United States. In 2009, he again tested positive in an anti-doping test and was suspended once more, which sealed his retirement from professional road cycling.

After overcoming episodes of depression, in 2010, Tyler was subpoenaed to testify in an investigation in doping in cycling being conducted in the United States. In 2011, he admitted to having used illegal substances in his career and gave back his Olympic gold medal, officially cancelled by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2012.

That same year, he published the book “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs”. Today Tyler Hamilton works as a trainer of amateur cyclists in general.

Luiz Roberto Magalhães – and Denise Mirás – Ministry of Sport