Lance Armstrong: Tyler Hamilton's Interview Shouldn't Alter Our Views on Lance
Lance Armstrong is about to find himself at the epicenter of yet another major controversy regarding performance-enhancing drugs after longtime teammate Tyler Hamilton accused the seven-time Tour de France winner of taking PEDs in preparation for his first three Tour victories, in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Hamilton was interviewed by 60 Minutes earlier this week and told the news program that he had witnessed Armstrong injecting himself with EPO, a blood-doping drug that causes the body to produce more red blood cells, thereby boosting endurance.
But while Hamilton's interview is certainly surprising, there's little there that will change your perception of Lance, whether you're a fan or a critic. In fact, both sides can find reasons why Hamilton's accusations are proof that Lance was a doper or that Hamilton is yet another former teammate looking to cash in on the PED claims that have dogged Lance's career.
Let's take a look and see why both sides will simply fortify their positions from Hamilton's interview.
Anti-Lance: Hamilton's Statements
According to Hamilton's interview with 60 Minutes, the former U.S. Postal Service team wingman saw Armstrong inject the drugs into himself and saw them sitting in his fridge.
Per the report:
"I saw (EPO) in his refrigerator .. I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times," Hamilton told 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley. "(Armstrong) took what we all took ... the majority of the peloton. There was EPO ... testosterone ... a blood transfusion."
Unlike some of the other accusers in the past, Hamilton actually says he saw Armstrong inject himself with the drugs. He gives you something none of the other accusers have: an eyewitness to Armstrong's alleged cheating ways. Those who sit squarely in the anti-Lance camp see these statements as being the proof they need to bust the seven-time champion for doping, and they could be right.
By giving greater detail than most accusers, Hamilton gives himself more credibility than, say, Floyd Landis. His statements give Armstrong's critics even more ammunition to call out the sport's most recognizable face, while giving them the details of the PED use they've lacked in the past.
Pro-Lance: Hamilton's Demeanor
While Hamilton's statements lend credence to claims of PED use by Armstrong, his demeanor during the interview gives Lance's supporters something to hang on to.
The former Olympic gold medalist seems unable to maintain eye contact with the interviewer and is constantly looking down and to the right during the discussion.
When a person answering questions does that, it often indicates that they're remembering a lie or telling a partial truth. Hamilton seems uncomfortable talking to the interviewer, and his general demeanor is that of someone who's not telling the whole truth.
Lance's supporters will latch onto Hamilton's mannerisms and non-verbal communication in an instant and point to it as further proof that Armstrong's former teammate is lying and that Armstrong is innocent again.
Anti-Lance: Mounting Evidence
Hamilton's charges alone would be serious, for obvious reasons, but adding to the weight of the accusations against Lance is the fact that his former wingman is hardly the only person in the cycling world to have accused Armstrong of doping.
Floyd Landis, the disgraced 2006 Tour de France winner, has long accused Armstrong of using PEDs during his peak of fame and control over the cycling world, even coming to a "financial agreement" with UCI president Hein Verbruggen to hide a positive test in 2001. While many have dismissed Landis as a liar, his story combined with Tyler Hamilton's helps to give Armstrong's critics even more ammunition.
Another former teammate, Frankie Andreu, admits that many riders on the circuit were doping to avoid being left in the dust by lesser riders, while his wife Betsy told investigators that Armstrong discussed performance-enhancing drug use in 1996, when he was being prepped for testicular cancer surgery.
With so many people accusing Armstrong of the exact same thing, it becomes less and less likely that he's telling the truth. As the numbers of accusers grow, Armstrong's detractors will say, it becomes less and less likely that they're all in it for the money or simply trying to spread lies about Armstrong's success.
Pro-Lance: The Test Record
This is the biggest blow to Armstrong's critics' case, and by not addressing it in his interview, Hamilton leaves a gaping hole in his argument.
Lance and his attorneys are always quick to point out that not only has Armstrong been the most tested athlete in the world for most of his career, he has yet to fail a drug test as well.
Remember that UCI has tested for EPO during Lance's career and was testing for the drug during Armstrong's run of success in the early part of the last decade. Despite that, Armstrong never failed a test, which tends to damage his accusers' stories of drug use.
Until there is more concrete proof that Armstrong was taking EPO or other performance enhancers, his supporters will continue to claim that none of the accusations hold any merit.
While Hamilton's statements in the 60 Minutes interview certainly do provide Armstrong's critics with more ammunition, they manage to also provide evidence to Armstrong's supporters that Hamilton, much like Landis, is lying about the seven-time Tour champion's PED usage.
The fact of the matter is that there was nothing said on Sunday that most people didn't already know. We'd heard accusations of EPO use from others in the past, and if you believed them, Hamilton wouldn't cause you to doubt that belief.
But by the same token, Hamilton didn't bring enough new information to force Armstrong's supporters to doubt Lance's innocence. All he managed to do was bring a new voice to Armstrong's accusers, which doesn't seem to be enough to change anyone's mind.
In the end, it's going to take something more concrete, more tangible to convince Armstrong's supporters that he was a doper. He will remain one of the most inspirational yet controversial athletes of our generation, someone who is as polarizing as any modern athlete.
Whether or not you believe Armstrong, Hamilton's interview will do little to change your perception of the cyclist. Until there is tangible evidence one way or the other, neither side will be swayed to the other's position, and it's going to take more than Tyler Hamilton's testimony to do it.