Marblehead native and world class cyclist, Tyler Hamilton, appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday night, where he admitted using performance enhancing substances and announced that he would be returning the gold medal he earned at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
In the same interview, Hamilton also implicated fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong and said he witnessed Armstrong injecting EPO, a banned substance that increases a rider's red blood cell count, during the 1999 Tour de France, which Armstrong won. Hamilton's admission, as well as the implication of Armstrong, has struck a chord among local cyclists.
In a letter written to friends and family members on May 19th, Hamilton made an effort to prepare them for Sunday night's interview and the firestorm that would inevitably follow the return of his gold medal and the implication of Armstrong.
"There's no easy way to say this, so let me just say it plain: On Sunday night you'll see me on '60 Minutes' making a confession that's overdue. Long overdue," Hamilton wrote. "During my career, I knowingly broke the rules. I used performance-enhancing drugs. "
After the interview, local resident Rich Robb, an avid cyclist who rides regularly with Tyler's brother Geoff and knows his father said "he has to be telling the truth about his past and about his experiences with Lance Armstrong in the context of using banned substances."
"My feeling is one of sympathy for Tyler, based on my initial feeling following viewing the interview, on several elements," Robb said, adding that the elements include the pressure to dope and the pressure to keep quiet about it, along with "his success and key involvement with a huge charity, Lance Armstrong's doping."
Robb also said that he felt that Hamilton felt "enormous pressure" to give into his coaches urgings to compete at the top of his game in order to keep up with other elite cyclists.
"(Hamilton) brought up the fact of the enormous amount of doping going on, a fact given by the number of podium finishers in past Tour de France races that have been found to have violated such rules," Robb said.
Robb also pointed out that cycling causes an incredible amount of stress on the human body, especially in a race such as the Tour de France. This type of event "causes one to use everything possible and stretch the limits to be successful. Unfortunately illegal substances became available," Robb said.
Another local cyclist, Jim Hanratty, echoed Robb's feelings about the pressure that Hamilton was under to compete with other elite riders, but Hanratty said he felt that it was no excuse to cheat.
"It is still cheating. I am concerned about the message it sends to all young athletes, whether they are cyclists or not." Hanratty said. "In our society, the end justifies the means. I think that it is the wrong message."
Jim also believes that that there is "no doubt" that Lance Armstrong was using illegal drugs. He refers to another athlete, George Hinicapie, who is one of Armstrong's teammates.
"George, like Armstrong, has never been caught. He also does not have an axe to grind and still races with this admission," he said.
Robb supports Tyler Hamilton's confession and hopes that maybe it will clear up the the world of cycling's "amazement" on Armstrong's continued successes as well as his "clean record."
"Ending the wondering about how Lance Armstrong won so many races can hopefully be concluded soon," Robb said. "That, beside the cleaning up of doping, is good for the sport. I suspect Tyler wanted this day to happen for some time."
At the end of Tyler Hamilton's letter to his family and friends, he wrote "Again, I just want to say I'm sorry, and that I hope you can forgive me. What matters to me most are my family and friends."
Hamilton also added that his parents have always told him that "the truth will set me free" and he mentions he is now feeling how right his parents advice was.