Friday, April 17, 2009

Et tu Tyler?

I always wanted to believe Tyler was one of the good guys. The guy finished the Giro with a broken collarbone and then had to get caps on all his back teeth because he was constantly grinding them while trying to manage the pain in his shoulder for two weeks. That's one bad ass bike racer. Plus, he is one of our own being a Massachusetts native. I remember seeing him for the first time in his new Coors Light kit at the start line of the crit stage at Killington. He was just a wide eyed local kid lining up with the country's best. I don't have the team roster in front of me, but if memory serves he was riding in the same kit that race as Phinney (the elder), Moninger, and Knickman among others.

I kind of accepted his assertions that blood cell tests were fallible and since he was the first to get popped under a new test, I wanted to cut him some slack. In my real job (no, I'm not a full time bike race announcer or blogger) we do lots of lab analyses on water and soil samples and it isn't uncommon for there to be a mistake once in a while. Contaminants get detected in places that you know they can't be, why wouldn't it happen with blood too? And if someone had an axe to grind, it wouldn't be hard at all to put the proverbial thumb on the proverbial scale and make the test come out how they wanted it to.

But I had forgotten about the laundry list of doping related offenses and suspicions going back to 2003 or 04 until I read today's stories in Velonews and elsewhere. Each one had a list that would make Floyd Landis blush. Yeah, I'm gullible, I still kind of hope he is actually innocent too. The worst of it has got to be Tyler involving his ex-wife in the Operacion Puerto doping scheme. I guess that is what you have to do when everyone knows your dog's name (RIP Tugboat).

But, as it turns out, the offense that finally does Tyler in is the least offensive of them all. According to Tyler, he took an over the counter remedy for depression that includes a steroid with a very long name that I don't want to try to spell as a minor ingredient. Doctors quoted in the news articles say the stuff is banned in cycling, but of little to no use for either performance enhancement in sports or for alleviating depression. Tyler's story sounds plausible, but like I said, I'm gullible. I also think Lance might have beaten all the dopers in the peloton 7 times without resorting to the stuff himself.

My dad had a serious bout with depression for a while and it was triggered by some of the same things that seem to have gotten to Tyler. First, it runs in the family. Second, when your self identity is tied up with your career, you take a big hit when someone takes that career away. A layoff after 30 years of service to the company or a suspension imposed by the authorities have the same effect. I can't guess whether or not Tyler feels guilt about the things he has or has not done outside the rules of cycling, but feeling guilt probably doesn't help with depression any either.

The right medication can make a huge difference, I've seen that. I don't know what happens when you suddenly take the medication away but it sounds like trouble to me. I guy might make some bad decisions in order to feel better. But the best thing for my dad was to get back to work. He got a new job that he loved and his outlook changed dramatically for the better. He was himself again.

So, my recommendation to Tyler is to get back to work. But they aren't going to let him race again. That puts him in the perfect position to be the guy that cleans up cycling. We know there are still dopers out there and Tyler knows who they are. Much more importantly, he knows how they got that way and who got them that way. Assuming Tyler still has enough cash on hand that he doesn't need a paycheck for a while, he should make it his life's mission to strip away the drug culture from cycling and help to educate young riders coming up. Maybe this will give him enough sense of purpose and self-worth that the depression issues will get better. At the very least he owes it to all those fans that he apparently duped into financially supporting his legal fight during the hearings over the doping charges.

So, if you know Tyler, punch him in the arm real hard. You know, in the hurtz donut spot. He deserves it for being a schmuck and knowingly taking stuff that is banned and pulling our glorious sport through the ringer again. Then, try to convince him to do something productive with himself and start naming names. Then give him every opportunity to teach the kids coming up what will be in store for them if they dope.

Tyler can save the sport while he saves himself.

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