Before I type another word I want to address a few important points about this review, useless as it is by design. First, I really loved Tyler Hamilton as a racer. The TDF he finished with collarbone broken and teeth ground down from trying to deal with the pain remains one of my favorite cycling tough-guy performances. I also respected the way he came clean, when eventually (some will say far too late, and I can agree) he came clean. I’m not trying to re-shame Tyler here, nor am I trying to excuse the excesses of the blood doping era.
As a piece of performance art, Hamilton’s Vanishing Twin defense of his 2004 blood doping charges was, for me, the absolute peak of oxygen-vector manipulation horseshit. For once, someone stepped up to the plate and delivered the sort of explanation the UCI so richly deserved at a time when the sport’s governing body was doing its absolute best to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. The UCI said, “Lie to us,” and Hamilton said, “Alright then. You’re gonna wanna sit down for this.”
I actually wish more cyclists had worked at the frayed end of credulity with their lame ass excuses, the better to entertain those of us who knew they were lying, and the quicker to expose the would be police of the sport, who, let’s be frank, had no real interest in cleaning things up. For a while there, pro cycling was awfully close to pro wrestling. I wish it had just embraced its transparent stupidity. Really gone for it.
For example, I wish Floyd Landis had claimed he was a vampire. “Oh, yeah,” he might have said, “The Landises married into the Impaler family two or three generations ago. That’s not excess testosterone. It’s the spiritual residue from generations of sucking the blood from the carotid arteries of virgin maidens.” That’s when Phonak does a press conference and confesses to the provision of virgin maidens for their team leader, a reprehensible crime under Swiss law, but not, technically, a violation of UCI protocols. Actually, now that I’ve written that, Swiss law is curiously permissive. Anything is possible.
I wish Lance, after stating for the 1,000th time that he’d never failed a drug test, had owned up to bathing in Oprah tears, the most energetically dense material known to man. “It’s not about the bike,” he might have sneered, “It’s about a galvanized tub filled with the lacrimal excretions of the world’s most powerful woman.”
No one followed Hamilton’s lead though. They dissembled. They blamed whiskey shots and Metallica. They shamed us for failing to recognize the nudge-nudge, wink-wink technocratic explanations for why it appeared all their blood had been removed and replaced with Sasquatch semen.
Instead we got lawsuits.
And confessions ON Oprah, instead of confessions OF Oprah. Boring.
At least Tyler Hamilton had the chutzpah to go big, and then the temerity to profess disappointment when the teacher didn’t give him credit for the lost homework. That’s commitment.
I’d like to think that Hamilton’s Vanishing Twin is out there somewhere, that the embryo of that lie somehow found a way to get born, to grow up, and to lurk in the shadows, waiting for its own chance to drink the blood of the credulous and stand on a podium, wearing a leotard and holding a small, stuffed lion.