Special Edition Cycling News, April 18, 2009
Edited by Greg Johnson with assistance from Shane Stokes
Caldwell disappointed by Hamilton positive
Garmin-Slipstream's Blake Caldwell has simply said he's disappointed following Tyler Hamilton's admission to a second positive anti-doping test. Caldwell finished a narrow second place to Hamilton at last year's USA Cycling Pro championships, with Hamilton narrowly beating Caldwell in a two-up sprint.
"Like a lot of us, I was deeply saddened and shocked to read the news," Caldwell said. "My only reaction at this time is of disappointment."
Hamilton tested positive for the banned steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) after an out-of-competition control in early February. Hamilton admitted to knowingly taking the substance, which was an ingredient in a vitamin supplement he took in an attempt to alleviate depression. The rider has announced his decision to retire from professional cycling.
Ball feels partly responsible for Hamilton situation
By Kirsten Robbins
Rock Racing owner Michael Ball feels regret for putting too much pressure on rider Tyler Hamilton, following his admission to a second positive anti-doping test, which will likely see him effectively banned for life. Hamilton, the United States National Road Champion, announced his retirement followed a positive doping control on Friday, April 17, and admitted to experiencing six years of clinical depression.
"Tyler suffers from an illness and he tried to make himself right," Ball said, regarding Hamilton decision to take herbal supplement Mitamins Advanced Formula for Depression which contained steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA. "He was under pressure and I feel partly responsible for that. This sport takes its toll on riders and in some cases I wish I hadn't put the pressure on him and I wish I had seen signs earlier."
Hamilton was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2003 following a successful cycling season, an illness that very few people knew he had. Hamilton stayed in Ball's California-home the week prior to a team training camp, where he noticed unusual behaviour. "Something was different in him that week," Ball said. "Before, when he stayed with me, he would walk my dog and go out for coffee in the morning but this time he just stayed in his room. I wish I had addressed it."
Ball pulled Hamilton out of retirement and contracted him to race for Rock Racing during the 2008-2009 seasons. The American-based team became controversial for signing riders who had suspended for implications in doping scandals like Operación Puerto. Hamilton was the only rider at Rock Racing to have a previous suspension for a positive test, having received a blood transfusion at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. "My goal was to give Tyler the second chance and see it all play out well for him," Ball told Cyclingnews. "It played out in a way that I would have written differently."
Ball supports Hamilton's decision to accept the United States Anti-Doping Authority's penalty of a possible eight years to lifetime ban from cycling, although he does not agree with it. "I want to give Tyler a farewell to the sport and it is important for him to get better and focus on the next chapter in his life," Ball said. "I will always be there for him and so will the team. I hope there is more spotlight on this illness, depression. If nothing else, it needs to be shown that it was courageous of Tyler to step up and talk about his illness."
Impact on Rock Racing
Hamilton's second positive doping control may warrant an eight years to lifetime ban from cycling, in accordance with the World Anti-doping Agency code of ethics. The question remains as to what affect his infraction will have on the state of cycling in America, a question that is too early to answer. The only negative effect is on his Rock Racing team losing a national champion, according to team owner Michael Ball.
"It's less about cycling and more about the bigger picture," Ball told Cyclingnews regarding Hamilton's six year struggle with clinical depression. "It's not about me, the team, investments, sponsors or the future of racing. For him to come out and address this illness is very important and I didn't consider for a second that it should affect cycling negatively. The point of the matter is that he is a champion and a huge ambassador for the sport who needs to start a new chapter in his life and trying to get himself better. Hopefully his circumstances further reach the cycling world."
Talk of Rock Racing's hunt to find a new sponsor surfaced due to the current state of the economic American economy this year. It's no secret that doping scandals have their part to play in the decline of funding in cycling, where current and potential sponsors have reconsidered their involvement. In Hamilton's case, a reigning national champion who committed his second offense, does not bode well for American racing.
"I think in Tyler's case he does not deserve to be sanctioned to the degree that he will be," Ball said. "There are unfair and heavy handed rules and there needs to be some sort of balance. There is nothing that shows he tried to get an advantage. I hope that others in the peloton and others will step forward hopefully this will be a catalyst for a riders union. It is unfortunate and it sucks that it is going to end this way."
Ball continued to talk about the need for cycling's governing bodies to provide cyclists with a more balanced strategy for dealing with doping infractions. "Within the governing bodies are these heavy handed limitations and sanctions that come from them are off the mark as far as an individual trying to right themselves and ultimately getting sanctioned for it," Ball said. "There needs to be a riders union that supports cyclists in these situations. Athletes deserve a better shake than what has happened here with Hamilton."
USAC presses on with suspension, wishes Hamilton well
USA Cycling's chief executive officer Steve Johnson has issued a statement following Tyler Hamilton's admission to taking a banned substance, saying the organisation will press ahead with the rider's suspension regardless of his intention to retire from the sport. Johnson expects to enforce whatever suspension the United States Anti-Doping Agency issues following its review of the case.
"Based on statements made to the press earlier today, Tyler Hamilton has admitted taking a banned substance in an attempt to treat his symptoms of depression," Johnson said in a statement. "Although his decision to take a banned substance was apparently based on concerns regarding his personal health, in so doing he violated the rules that have been implemented to ensure a fair and level racing environment for all athletes. Mr. Hamilton has acknowledged that he was well aware of the consequences and must now pay the price for his actions; and USA Cycling will carry out any sanction as determined by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after reviewing the facts of the case."
Johnson wished Hamilton the best for his reported battle with depression. The rider announced he was suffering from depression when admitting to taking a Mitamins product which contained 20 milligrams of steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone.
"As a result of these unfortunate circumstances, the professional national champion's jersey will not be seen in the peloton until a new champion is crowned later this summer in Greenville," Johnson said. "I am aware that depression can profoundly affect a person's life, health, friends and family, which is why all of us here at USA Cycling wish Tyler the best in his personal struggle with this illness."
McQuaid: Cycling better off without Hamilton
International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid was blunt when responding to news of Tyler Hamilton's admission to a positive anti-doping control. The Irishman simply said the sport is better off without the American rider, who served a doping suspension following the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
"He has had a cloud over his career for a while now and the sport is better off without him," McQuaid told AP.
Hamilton admitted to taking a Mitamins product – billed as being natural – for his depression which contains vitamins D, B-6 and B-12, as well as thiamin, riboflavin and calcium. The drug also contains 20 milligrams of Dehydroepiandrosterone, a steroid referred to as DHEA.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2009)