I watched Tyler Hamilton’s interview on 60 Minutes. I did not enjoy it because I hate to see people suffering. And the interview was obviously a painful experience for Tyler. I did not have the perception that I was watching an attention-whore or a self-promoter. Rather, I saw a tortured soul recounting events he would rather forget.
Do I think he was telling the truth? Probably, but I really don’t know. None of us do. What I do know is that each of us interprets what we see and hear through our self—our own experience, our dreams (realized or not), and our past. So, for me, watching Tyler’s interview was unpleasant, not only because he appeared so conflicted and tormented by it all, but because I could relate.
I’ve never used performance-enhancing drugs, but I, to some extent at least, understand his motivation. I understand the singular focus that comes from desperately wanting to be on the “A team”—wanting to the point of being willing to sacrifice relationships, other interests, the future, health. I wanted to be one of “them.” I wanted to be fast. I wanted to contribute to the team’s success. I wanted to win. I wanted to race in Europe. So, I did exactly what Tyler et al. apparently did. I did what it took. And, walking as close to the precipice as possible, did not seem at all strange because I was immersed in that culture. I thought, dreamed, ate, and slept being fast, as we all did. When you’re so close to the goal that has consumed you for years, the choice does not always feel like an exercise of free will--it feel more like something that happens to you.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not making excuses for the bad choices I’ve made or those that Tyler and other cyclists might have made. I am simply saying that what might seem illogical and indefensible makes sense, if you are willing to acknowledge (like it or not) that sport is a religion that preaches “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”