ESPN steroid article
Let the Juicing Begin
By Patrick Hruby
Let's be honest: The thought of Barry Bonds' taking a women's infertility drug is a wee bit disconcerting.
And the notion of his ingesting a steroid used to boost muscle mass in cattle? Flat-out gross.
Bonds is the poster child for the MLB Steroid era.
(Look, I'm not a biologist, but what happens if the guy gets pregnant? Does he lactate buttermilk?)
Still, in the wake of the latest steroid allegations surrounding the San Francisco Giants' slugger, one thing strikes me as particularly shocking.
I find myself agreeing with -- gack -- Bode Miller.
Back up a few months. Before Miller decided that fat, drunk and stupid was a perfectly good way to go through the Olympics, skiing's self-styled corporate bad boy declared that sports doping should be permitted, and that banning performance-enhancing drugs does little to level the playing field or protect the health of athletes.
"I don't think it's a really big deal," Miller said of steroid use. "I think people should be able to do what they want to do."
Was Miller being sincere? Or were his words simply another salvo in his ill-fated, Nike-backed, I'm-such-an-iconoclast marketing campaign?
Hard to say. The messenger seems like a dope. But the message? The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it has merit.
Really, why not let athletes juice?
Look, I'm not claiming that creating leagues of extraordinary gentleman whose shrunken testicles also happen to glow in the dark is a great idea. Nor am I insinuating that the reasons for barring steroids in sports are baseless.
(I'll leave both of those to Jose Canseco's next book. Dear Congress: please don't subpoena me during your next round of grandstanding. KTHNXBYE!)
No, all I'm saying is that for every argument against drug use, there's an equally reasonable argument for allowing it -- and that when it comes to steroid prohibition, the cure might be worse than the disease.
Why should Bonds and Co. be permitted to poke, prod and otherwise juice their bodies in the manner of experimental livestock? Consider the following:
Testing Flunks Out
The lab coats try. They really do. The NFL spends $10 million annually on its drug program, the toughest in pro sports. The International Olympic Committee reportedly administered 1,200 doping tests at the Torino Games, a 72 percent increase over Salt Lake City.
While working for Merrill Lynch, American shot putter Adam Nelson once had to cut short a client meeting when urine collectors demanded he provide a random sample. Right then and there.
So what do sports organizations get for their vigilance, for forcing dignity-stripped athletes to stop, drop and aim for the plastic cup?
A few years ago, I put those questions to Dr. Charles Yesalis, a Penn State University epidemiologist and one of the world's leading experts on drugs in sports.
His response was less than inspiring.
Testing only catches the stupid and the careless. The low-hanging fruit.
"When the Mark McGwire [androstenedione] scandal broke, I said one thing you could do is have all these sports federations pool $100 million each and give it to chemists around the world, give them five years and see what research does to close loopholes," Yesalis said. "Frankly, I wouldn't bet my house on that. With every loophole that closes up, one opens."
When it comes to juicing, the cat-and-mouse game between testers and cheaters is more like Tom and Jerry. The rodent usually wins. Screening for Testosterone isn't foolproof. A reliable test for Human Growth Hormone -- one of the performance-enhancers Bonds allegedly used -- has yet to be developed. And clever chemistry can disguise doping.
Take THG, the steroid at the heart of the BALCO scandal (and also allegedly used by Bonds). Sprinter Kelli White reportedly passed tests while using the drug. Why? It was designed to be undetectable.
In fact, testers only got wise when disgruntled track coach Trevor Graham slipped them a sample of THG -- in a used syringe, reportedly -- and told them to look for it.
Examine some of the biggest doping busts of the last decade, and a similar pattern emerges. State and federal investigators nabbed a South Carolina doctor who filled illegal steroid prescriptions for three members of the Carolina Panthers; in 1998, customs officials at the French- Belgian border uncovered the biggest drug scandal in Tour de France history.
Likewise, chemists didn't dig up the latest allegations about Bonds. Dogged cops and reporters did.
"What would work? Aggressive, undercover police sting operations," Yesalis said. "I'm talking handcuffs. Put it on 'Cops.' But are you willing to do that against Penn State, USC, the Baltimore Ravens, the L.A. Lakers, on a sustained basis?"
Drug testing as we know it isn't totally futile. It snares little fish like Matt Lawton and big, clumsy ones such as Rafael Palmeiro. That said, a system that regularly busts the smartest, most sophisticated cheaters likely would be akin to enforcing the speed limit by having police cars stationed at every intersection: costly, invasive and hardly worth the trouble.
As such, why bother?
Competitive Integrity Is Relative.
The major argument against steroid use goes something like this: Drugs destroy competitive integrity by giving users a leg up on nonusers, thereby creating a nonlevel playing field.
Of course, our playing fields are hardly level to begin with.
Purists howl about Bonds' alleged drug use. No one says a word about his padded arm protector, a plate-crowding advantage that other hitters don't enjoy. Babe Ruth smacked 714 home runs without having to face African-American pitchers. The New York Yankees can afford more talent than the Kansas City Royals. Team Germany has better bobsled gear than Team Jamaica.
Duke basketball players get to learn from hoops savant Mike Krzyzewski, a man with his own AmEx commercial. Until his resignation last week, Duquesne players were stuck with Danny Nee, who led the team to the worst season in school history.
Should Coach K be banned, just to make things more fair?
Some say steroids are a distasteful shortcut. Not so.
They actually allow athletes to work harder and more effectively, much like a good strength coach. Others claim performance-enhancers are unnatural, which in turn raises a question: What is natural, exactly?
Is it Tiger Woods, having a Lasik operation? Pitchers throwing harder after Tommy John surgery?
Players wearing tinted contact lenses?
The banned substance EPO boosts endurance by stimulating the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. So does altitude training, which is why American speedskaters reportedly prepare for international competition by sleeping in oxygen-deprived rooms. Does the latter have more integrity than the former?
Jacob Sullum, the author of "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use" isn't so sure. Neither am I.
"Everybody ought to be able to use the same tools," Sullum said. "But I don't see what is different in principle between steroids and anything else artificial we do to change our abilities, be it working out, diet, the various medicines people take to recover from injuries."
To put things another way: Pam Anderson is an entertainer, same as Bonds. She has patently fake breasts, bouncy, silicone-filled bags that have given her an undeniable competitive advantage over her unenhanced wannabe starlet peers.
Oddly enough, no one is demanding an asterisk be placed next to her Playmate of the Year award.
The Risks are Unknown
With the possible exception of Canseco, nobody says performance-enhancing drugs are good for your health.
But that doesn't mean they're going to kill you, either.
First and foremost, steroids aren't evil. They're medical drugs, used to treat ailments such as a body wasting away from AIDS. And like most drugs, they have side effects.
In the short term, 'roids can cause acne. They've been linked to mood swings, heart disease and liver damage. They also can shrink the testicles. Yikes.
Beyond that, Yesalis told me, medical scientists simply don't understand the long-term effects of juicing. Lyle Alzado didn't die of 'roid rage. He died of brain lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Can steroids be used safely? Or with an acceptable level of danger?
Maybe not. But no one knows for sure. Meanwhile, one thing seems clear: ban drugs, and athletes will continue to use them; allow drugs, and those same athletes will at least be able to juice under some sort of medical supervision.
Ask yourself: better to follow a 'roid regime designed by the shady likes of Greg Anderson? Or one put together by the Mayo Clinic?
"If you could regulate and control steroid use, maybe that would be the answer to some of the problems,"said Dr. Robert Ruhling, director of the George Mason University human performance laboratory. "But you would need some sort of medical review panel, since there are such things as unethical doctors."
True enough. Malpractice would be a risk. So would health problems. But remember: Elite athletes are willing put themselves in harm's way all the time and are allowed to do so. Boxers get punched in the head. Football linemen beef up to steer-like proportions, never mind the strain on their hearts and joints. Downhill skiers risk broken bones and worse.
In everyday life, potentially addictive prescription painkillers are a big deal; in sports, they're de rigueur.
"I'm in my 60s, and I've had three concussions," said Ruhling, a former college tennis player. "Each time, I was told to not do anything for six to eight weeks. Well, sometimes those quarterbacks get thrown back in the next week."
The Kids Will Be Alright
Athletes are role models. If they use steroids, our children will follow suit. Or so we're told.
Doug Abrams has doubts. A youth hockey coach and expert panelist at the University of Rhode Island's Center for Sports Parenting, he says teens juice for the same reason adults do.
Because it works.
"They want the same performance-enhancing effect," said Abrams, a law professor at the University of Missouri. "A chance to get a college athletic scholarship."
Looking to point fingers? Forget the likes of Brian Bosworth and Palmeiro. Think overzealous parents, increasingly professional youth leagues, a culture that prizes athletic achievement above just about everything else.
Besides, even if a kid takes steroids because he idolizes Bonds, that doesn't mean Bonds should have to refrain. The man can smoke. He can patronize a strip club. He can vote, pay taxes, see an R-rated movie.
"There are things that are appropriate for adults that aren't appropriate for children," Sullum said. "I guess athletes shouldn't be driving cars, either."
Go back to Anderson, her Maxim cover-girl peers, Hollywood starlets in general. Bodies by liposuction. Bee-stung lips pumped with Botox. Magazine cover portraits, Photoshopped to the nth degree.
Who has done more psychological damage to the youth of America? A few buffed-up sluggers? Or scores of waifish supermodels, driving teenage girls to anorexia and their mothers to the nearest plastic surgeon?
Maybe President Bush can scold the cast of "Desperate Housewives" during his next State of the Union Address. Perhaps Congress should subpoena Kate Moss.
"I don't understand why athletes get this burden of being role models that no other public figures have," Sullum said. "Why more of a role model than an actor or a scientist? Everybody ought to be moral, but being an athlete doesn't impose a special burden."
We're All Hypocrites
We pop recreational Viagra. We study for exams by popping Ritalin. We shed extra pounds with gastric bypass surgery, a grisly medical procedure rife with ghastly side effects (gallstones, anemia, pulmonary embolism). We enhance ourselves on a daily basis -- for performance, for fun, for petty vanity. Because, quite frankly, we can.
"It's the American way," Ruhling said. "If I want to be in shape today, I should have been in shape yesterday. If one is good, 10 will be a lot better."
Do as we say, sports world. Not as we already do.
(Unless you're talking cow hormones. That's still pretty gross).
Bravo, finally someone writes a fair article about steroids and atheletes.. I couldn't agree more with some of the things mentioned in there !
" Go hard or go home !"
That has to be one of the best articles i have read in a while. What a great view of our side....you know the "dark side." The part where pitchers throw harder after surgeries and other surgeries that boost performance really made me think. DGP!!!!
"SPES ET FIDES"
No shit with tummy tucks and a hundred other types of plastic surgery not to mention Rx diet pills, steroids seem rather mild in regard imo.
liftsiron is a fictional character and should be taken as such.
Tyler Hamilton Interview Part 2
On April 18th Tyler Hamilton said in a statement after receiving a 2 year ban earlier the same day, "My case is a very complicated one. I could write on and on about the issues we raised, the personal toll all this has had on me, my family and my sponsors and why I think the anti-doping process could be improved. In the days ahead I'll share more."
It's true the case was and is a complicated one; following the reports and information and listening to the debate on both sides some things did not always make sense. Hamilton is not your run of the mill competitor. In the following paragraph from a team preview for the 2004 Tour de France Jaime Nichols wrote:
"Without a doubt, Hamilton was the real hero of the 2003 Tour de France, and holy hell, did he ever earn the distinction. After catapulting himself into a broken collarbone at the finish of stage 1, it looked as if little Tyler's jig was up, but the fat lady wasn't singing, and the next morning, he was there at the start and all kitted up to ride!
Wincing in agony atop slightly de-pressurized tires and double wrapped handlebars in an attempt to cushion the blow of every little imperfection of the road's surface, he vowed to carry on to aid his teammates in the Team Time Trial on stage 4 and then? "we'll see," he said. His bags were packed in the feed zone that day, but he didn't quit.
Phonak TTT Tour de France photo c. Dave O'Nyons
By stage 8, he was attacking the heads of state on the Alpe D'Huez while we all gasped in amazement. Eight days later, he won stage 16 after a Herculean 100 km breakaway, the pain writ large all over his New England face, and this reporter cried real tears. By stage 19, he had clawed himself into 4th place in the G.C. by taking second in the final time trial, only 9 seconds off David Millar's winning time. Like I said: Holy Hell. That was a ride.
In 2004, Tyler led out with strong performances all season, including a solid second consecutive victory in the Tour of Romandie - which he targeted, said he hoped to win and did win; always the mark of someone to look out for, and a second behind Mayo in the Dauphine, riding, he says, below his best form."
Tyler on his way to winning 2005 Mt. Washington Hill Climb, 7.6 mile, avg, grade 12%, with extended sections of 18% and the last 50 yards is an amazing 22%. Time: 51:56
Tyler that year was nicknamed "Nails" by our staff for his "tough as nails" approach to conquering adversity and winning. The last seventeen months Tyler has demonstrated that his determination and courage to endure the challenges of life are not something he left on the roads of Europe, but a much a part of his character as his love of riding and racing.
continued part 2... interview with Tyler "Nails" Hamilton...
VT: Do riders face career ending situations or added danger on the road if they were to come forward?
Tyler: I don�t really know of a scenario under which this would occur. Doping is not something you hear athletes talk about. Lance Armstrong has always said if you are going to make an extraordinary accusation, you need extraordinary proof. It stands to reason that if someone is up to something, they are not going to be bragging about it or doing it in public. I would hate to see a Salem Witch Trials culture emerging where a jealous competitor makes an accusation out of frustration. But on the other side of things, if someone has evidence of something going on that could put their team in jeopardy, then they bear the responsibility of sharing that information with team management regardless of who it might upset.
VT: I would encourage all interested fans to read the info on your site. But in spite of the testimony of your expert witnesses (Conclusions drawn by Tyler Hamilton & his experts) to the contrary, Chris Campbell�s dissenting opinion, and the information you presented; CAS chose to find against you. Did you feel that the hearing was as fairly conducted as it could have been, or that the decision was based on some other arbitrary?
In your opening to your statement you said, �Based on my devastating personal experience over the last year and a half, I am committed to fighting for reform within the anti-doping movement. I do support the anti-doping mission and USADA, however the current system has failed an innocent athlete and needs to change.�
What would you like to see done in the way of reform not only to protect innocent riders and athletes but to put in place a system that is honest and workable to eliminate cheating. (Info: This has been a hot topic the www.dailypeloton.com forums) in the last year with riders and fans debating how the system should change and become more effective and fair for all athletes.
Tyler: I think the system needs objectivity and more independent input from the larger medical community. And above all, the athletes need more respect. Some ideas are
Get the NIH or World Health Organization involved with developing and reviewing test methods
Have WADA sponsor programs at leading universities to get students and researchers involved with the anti doping mission
Establish clear separation between the agencies that develop new tests and adjudicate the results of those tests.
Sanctions for anti doping violations need to be more realistic. Seeing Zach Lund (Olympic Skeleton racer) suspended for a year even though the court didn�t think he was a �cheat� is far too harsh and out of line with other sanctions.
A list of �approved� supplements should be established so athletes no longer have to be branded �cheaters� or miss important competitions for having taken something containing traces of unlisted substances. Rumor has it that one of these agencies has a list of supplements....
The rules and laws that govern the anti doping code should more closely resemble a real court. If my case took place in the real court of law, I would be racing my bike right now.
Athletes should not have to rely on the experience of a �specialist� who understands the anti doping judicial system. There must be a fair system with checks and balances.
Proper financing of new tests is also essential. The USADA budget for research is roughly $2 million per year. Only $50,000 was allocated for the HBTT. But hundreds of thousands were spent defending the test in my case. The ratio is backwards. If one large grant funded research (i.e. $1 million per test) then proper validation could be conducted and athletes could be more confident that the tests worked
Finally, and maybe the most important thing is giving the athletes a voice. Those whose lives are most impacted by this system should have a say in it. In the current process they have no say. Some officials act like athletes are disposable. If they really cared about cleaning up sport, they would work with the athletes instead of against them.
VT: I think anyone would accept these as reasonable reforms. Do you see the doping issue as more a health issue or an ethical dilemma of cheating?
Tyler: It�s both. Take the HBTT for instance. The ethical dilemma is an obvious one. Someone would have to be horribly desperate to justify resorting to such an option in the first place. But in addition to that, they�d be risking their life. Steroid or EPO use may catch up with you over time if you abused either on a long-term basis. But one transfusion could kill you. That�s an awfully huge risk to weigh especially considering the performance benefits of a transfusion would last less than a week. And in addition to that, you could potentially test positive for 4 months. I love the bike, but I can�t imagine a scenario where this could be rationalized.
VT: Your opinion of the 5 day bans recently given to Olympic athletes without a positive test?
Tyler: The health tests are a good insurance policy for the anti doping mission because they provide an additional level of monitoring. However, these tests are not always 100% accurate. Here�s an example from my own experience. In 2004 it was reported that I had a high hematocrit at the Tour of Romandie. My team challenged the reading because it was way above the team�s own reading (teams test simultaneously just in case there is a dispute). Four point gains were registered for me and two other teammates had just been tested four days earlier at another race that was held back to back with the Tour of Romandie.
Because the �higher� HCT data was used against me during my case as supporting evidence, we compelled the calibration data for the machine. It showed the machine had a consistently high bias for nearly the entire season of 2004. It also showed that the machine is only accurate within a range of plus or minus 2.5%.
When you see data like this and you also consider that these machines are portable, and a number of other factors can influence the outcome of these tests like: dehydration, how long you�ve been sitting before the blood draw and how long the tourniquet is on your arm � you realize that these numbers are not absolute. It�s why no one is charged with a doping offense based off these readings. For these reasons I think health test warnings should be kept confidential. However, the current culture promotes slandering athletes at every opportunity. Just look at the cross-country skiers at the Olympics � the headlines all imply doping, and very few people read far enough to find out that it is not. In fact, Dick Pound even said it indicated doping � that is irresponsible. This sort of sensationalizing stands to hurt sports more than it helps. Especially if the numbers are not concrete to begin with.
VT: At this point Tyler, do you walk into the future feeling that your integrity is whole in spite of what some might think or have said?
Tyler: Haven and I have been saying all along � fill a stadium with people who don�t believe me and let them ask me anything they want. I have nothing to hide. I know my integrity is still intact. I can walk with my head held high because I know the truth. So many people have speculated that I�m lying and that at some point I�m going to crack and admit that I blood doped. This is ridiculous. I am not going to admit to something I didn�t do. I would not have fought as hard as I did and partnered with some of the most prestigious scientists in the world to defend myself unless I was in pursuit of the truth. And certainly, the experts we worked with from Harvard Medical School, MIT and Puget Sound Blood Center to name a few, would have been bright enough to figure out if I were lying. You can�t fool scientists of this caliber.
People don�t know the lengths I went to get to the bottom of my case. From demanding re-tests, to storing blood close in time to the charge, to working with researchers to try to recreate the test, to asking my teammates, sponsors and close friends and family to be blood tested to prove they were not potential donors, to allowing my blood to be DNA tested. I did everything I could. But at the end of the day, I�m an athlete not a scientist. The learning curve was unbelievably enormous from a medical standpoint but I think we did everything we could.
I�m still at a loss for why this test even exists. I�ve never even heard so much as a rumor of someone doing this. Even after the year and half we�ve been caught up in this ordeal I don�t know how anyone could go about this. Blood isn�t something you buy on the black market, and people die in hospitals all the time from well matched transfusions. If this was really going on in sports, we�d be hearing more about the catastrophic side effects, I�m sure. I hope that over time, when people have had time to allow some of the facts to come into play and apply a little common sense, that they will see how ridiculous this has all been.
VT: Just amazing, that a faulty test report from an out of calibration machine could be used as evidence.
Euskaltel-Euskadi manager Manuel Madariaga commented after the ban on Roberto Heras, "It's a strong blow for cycling, and the solutions that they are taking aren't the right ones. Doping will not cease with more sanctions or prosecutions." I tend to agree with Madariaga� The question is what is the way out of the maze we are in?
Tyler: Doping cases have to mean something. They shouldn�t leave people confused. Roberto�s case raises more questions than it answers. No one who follows cycling closely can justify the timing of the allegation. It seems inconceivable that someone with the lead he had in the Vuelta would choose to dope on the second to last day. It�s just as irrational as Santi Perez blood doping in the off season. Or me blood doping a month before the start of the Tour when I had no objectives. These allegations have to be looked at in context. Re-running Heras�s B test, holding Perez�s hearing without him, and ignoring all the glaring issues we raised in my case are behaviors of a flawed system. I support the anti doping mission but the tests and the system in general, need to be of the highest integrity. If they were, athletes with elevated hemoglobin readings wouldn�t have to be scandalized. Instead, media reports could focus on how clean sports are as a result, not how dirty the athletes are.
VT: I agree Tyler. On this topic of punishment and reform, would you favor an amnesty of riders after a reform of the system unless it had an open admission of guilt by the rider? And while were on the topic wouldn�t:
(1) lesser penalties or sidelining a rider for lesser infractions, (2) a gradient of bans leading to severe or longer bans for second, and (3) some form of rehabilitation or effort to get the offender to make amends for what damage he has done be more workable?
Tyler: You raise interesting points that I think are all valid. One the one hand WADA has to send a strong message that they are serious about sanctioning cheaters. However, an argument can also be made that the WADA sanctions are overbearing.
Just look at the Zach Lund case. Prescription medication he was taking for years to treat hair loss went on the banned list in 2005. He didn�t realize this and continued taking the medication. He was tested eight times in 2005. All eight times he listed the medication on his doping control forms. The first seven times the control officers missed it. The eighth time they caught it and called him positive. USADA issued a rare and first of its kind warning to Zach and made him forfeit his race result from the 8th event. WADA didn�t approve of the ruling and appealed the decision before CAS in Turino. CAS heard the case and handed down an astonishing one year Suspension while simultaneously stating in their opinion they were certain Zach Lund was not a cheater. Now he�s sitting out a year of competition, and being forced to wait four years for another chance to compete at the Olympics.
When you compare this case to a steroid positive in the NFL, where the athlete is only suspended for 4 games, the contrast is pretty startling. But the message is clear, WADA wants the greatest punishment possible applied in every case. But throwing the book at everyone is like sentencing jay walkers and bank robbers to the same punishment. There should be some middle ground for smaller or first time infractions. In a regular court a defendant is evaluated using a number of factors including whether it�s a first offense, what outside factors led to the offense, what role the defendant plays in their community, etc. The current anti doping system does not mirror traditional court systems. In addition to that, athletes are forced to hire their own lawyers and scientific experts and do all the discovery about their case, the test used against them and the results on their own. This alone prevents most athletes from properly defending themselves because they don�t have the resources to do this kind of work. And there has never been a strong educational or rehabilitative component to this system as far as I have ever known, except for the publication of a banned substance list. If the health of the athletes is a real priority, then these areas should be a bigger focus.
VT: A few years ago Lance Armstrong mentioned that he would like to see a union in place to work for the benefit of the riders. In the last two years John Lieswynn proposed to do so for the North American riders. In your statement you too speak of supporting the formation of a union. �I will also continue to support the formation of unions to help protect the rights of athletes.� What is the response from other pro riders on forming a union? How do you see a union would work in regards to protecting rider�s rights with the UCI, WADA, Race Organizers etc. Would this improve the sport in the long run or make it too expensive for teams as some claim?
Tyler: I think a riders union would be beneficial because it would make the competitors participants in the decision making within their sport. For instance, I never knew that the UCI didn�t require validation documentation for a new anti doping test. They simply trust the labs and their expertise. (The lab that ran my HBTT didn�t receive independent accreditation from the ISO to run the test until October 2005.) A union, on the other hand, would require proof that a test worked before it was accepted for use. The athletes should have a voice as they are a significant part of the sport. A union would also be a resource for all kinds of issues from understanding new rules and regulations to financial planning for the athletes to raising course safety issues. This system works within the major sports in the US, tennis, European football and others. There�s no reason it couldn�t be applied in cycling.
VT: Some see the Pro Tour as being the NASCAR - isation of pro cycling that endangers the great traditions and races that have evolved over the last hundred years. Do you have an opinion on how it is and what might make a better approach/organization of races/teams for the organizers, riders and fans?
Tyler: Designing and rolling out the Pro Tour is an enormous endeavor. From what I can tell, the goal of the Pro Tour seems to be securing the future of the sport, which I think is admirable. But it looks as though there is a lack of collaboration between the interested parties. Human beings seem naturally adverse to change, especially if it�s forced on them and they don�t feel as though they�ve had an appropriate say in the new standard. It has been sad to see some of the more storied races drop off the calendar because they didn�t meet the new Pro Tour criteria. Preparing for the future while simultaneously respecting the past is a tall order. But cycling is a sport built on history and lore. To ignore that would be unfortunate.
VT: Agreed. Do you think a riders union could have an impact in this impasse with the UCI, Grand Tour other race organizers to protect the traditions and resolve the current conflicts?
Tyler: I like the idea in giving the riders a say and don�t see how incorporating their input could hurt. I think the riders could provide productive and useful input across the board. Don�t forget, it�s the athletes who do the competing. So they know what it feels like to be on the road 200 days a year and racing 120 days. The situation right now is similar to what happened in triathlon when the Iron Man races pulled away from their governing federation. Now there are two separate organizations and the athletes bounce between them. I don�t know if things will go this far in cycling and hope that won�t be the case. I think it�s important for the leadership of the sport to listen to the feedback they receive and incorporate it in a useful way. Ideally, it should come from as many perspectives as possible.
VT: I understand that you�ve continued to train and are fit. I hear from many fans who are eager for your return to racing. Any idea what team you will ride with? What races will you target when you return to racing in September?
Tyler: I had spoken to a number of teams before my decision came down and was ultimately hoping to return to racing with Phonak. With the decision being what it is, obviously I have to revisit any previous discussions I�ve had. I don�t want to end my career on this note, and will absolutely return to racing, hopefully later this year. My suspension is scheduled to end one day after the Individual Time Trial which is disappointing. I would have liked to return for that. However, I will be cleared by the Road Race which I hope to do on the 24th. Beyond that I can�t really speculate because a lot has to be ironed out before I could set a schedule. But October still offers a full month of racing, and obviously if I were on a Pro Tour team by that point, I�d want to do all the racing I could.
VT: In a last comment is there any advice you would give a young man who wants to go pro?
Tyler: If you are lucky enough to transform your passion for riding into your livelihood, then you owe it to yourself to follow that dream. Cycling is a demanding sport that will require you to endure suffering and sacrifice on levels you probably have never imagined but if you make it through, you�ll experience tremendous reward. Make the most of every opportunity you have on the bike, and never take a single one of them for granted.
Tyler with Jr. racers from the RMCEF Team (Rocky Mtn. Cycling Education Foundation)**
VT: Ok we can�t end this interview without a few questions about the Tyler Hamilton Foundation. Right now the foundation has 142 items in the auction that closes on February 28th. Including some spectacular ones like your 2004 signed Phonak Jersey, and a 2005 Phonak jersey signed by the team, nice to see you have their support by the way. Train with Tyler package! (follow the links to bid.***) You also are one busy guy with the foundation with multiple activities to support M.S. research for a cure.
Why did you choose Multiple Sclerosis as your focus with the foundation?
Tyler: I have a very close friend from the Boston area who�s mother has MS. He asked me to get involved with the National MS Society back in the mid-90s and help promote the MS Cycling Series and MS 150 fund raising rides. This community had an immediate impact on me and I became more and more involved with the organization over the years. I was amazed to see so many people suffering from the disease actually doing the rides. I had the wrong impression about MS, that it was an immediate sentence to a wheelchair. I was inspired by the way these folks used cycling to stay fit and fight the disease. Each of them were facing my worst nightmare; a future of impaired physically ability, and I wanted to do all that I could to inspire and help them stay healthy. In 2003 we established the MS Global fund raising ride, which is a one week ride every September in Europe that supports the International Multiple Sclerosis Foundation�s Jacqueline DuPre Fund, dedicated to supporting research for a cure. When we established this ride, we also established the Foundation to maximize the fund raising potential of the event.
"Thumbs up" in Girona at the end of MS Global
VT: A word about how others can support THF?
Tyler: As you mentioned above, we are hosting an online auction through the end of February. There are a number of great items to bid on generously donated from folks all over the country. MS Global will be traveling to Switzerland, Italy and France in September. We hope to host the 3rd annual Live Loud Large live viewing of a Tour de France stage at regal cinemas again across the country. We also partner with a number of other events throughout the year which is updated on our website www.tylerhamiltonfoundation.org
Thanks Tyler, I for one, look forward to seeing you in action racing in the Pro Peloton in Europe and with any luck here in the USA too.
Photo credits c.Tyler Hamilton Foundation unless otherwise noted.
**THF is proud to sponsor the junior category of the upcoming Boulder, Colorado based races:
Criteriums @ Stazio: March 5, 12, 19, 26
Boulder Roubaix Road Race: Saturday, April 8
Boulder Larimer Road Race, Saturday, April 15
Hammer @ The Slammer, Saturday, April 23
Racers age 18 and younger ride for free. Take this opportunity to try it out! Information
***(Editors note: This interview took place and was scheduled to be published previous to the Tyler Hamilton Foundation Auction, which ended this week. Tour of California coverage delayed publication of this interview. More info on THF via the links provided above; watch for coming THF auctions.)
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