After he blew the lid off the Lance Armstrong doping scandal in cycling, we sit down with American Tyler Hamilton.
Last night your book won a prestigious award. How did that feel?
It felt amazing. I was humbled by it. I didn't know what to expect and we won and a big shout out to Dan Coyle over here. He deserves a lot of credit, we worked really hard for two years on this. For me it was really nice to spill out my guts and finally tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
You did spill your guts. You have made a huge difference to cycling and you've made a huge difference to your life. What made you take this decision to tell the truth?
I had a subpoena. I was told to come and speak in front of the grand jury in regards the US Postal team and Lance Armstrong and it was really the first time I told the whole truth and I was dreading that day. I knew I was going to tell the truth and I had no idea but it felt so good to finally tell it how it was. From that moment forward I was on the path of truth. It's done me a ton of good. The only way to tell the whole story was by writing a book. I'd have to sit with you for 48hrs to explain everything.
How hard was it to acknowledge to you parents and the world that you had cheated?
It was extremely hard but I knew after speaking to the grand jury, I knew how good it felt inside to finally release it all out and I had to do it and the hardest part was family and especially my parents. I always wanted to make them proud. I'd lied to my whole family and my parents for a long time, but it felt good to finally tell it how it was and I was surprised that the majority of people have forgiven me to some degree and told me that they understood that it was a tricky situation and there was more than once person involved and it was a corrupt system. A dark and dirty system. Hopefully it will help others make the right decision in future.
Why did you cheat? What was your mentality?
That could take 20 minutes. In general if I didn't cheat, I'd get cheated by others. Back in 1997 when I first started doping I believe 80 percent of the peloton was doping to some degree so to a certain extent do what they are doing or you are going to get beat and you will most likely quit in frustration, but that was obviously the wrong mentality and I should have done the right thing. My parents taught me better when I was growing up and I deviated from the path and it feels good to be back on the path. I haven't spoken to you before but I would have lied straight to your face 5/6 years ago.
Those who didn't want to dope? What was the culture like? How were they treated?
Not well - between 1997 and 2004, those were the years when I was at the top of cycling, it was interesting that only two riders spoke out against doping which is pretty incredible - eight years, only two - Frenchman Christophe Bassons and the other was an Italian rider by the name of Fillipo Simeoni in 2004. Bassons was quickly pushed out of the sport and quickly pushed out of the Tour de France after speaking out against doping and quickly pushed out of the sport and quit in frustration. I believe the same thing sort of happened to Simeoni. It's interesting that in those eight years only two so that gives you a pretty good sign that the majority of us were doping.
What about the peloton today? Is it clean?
It's really hard for me to say. I'm totally out of the sport now. I don't really talk to anyone at the top of the sport anymore. It's a lot cleaner than the dark days. They are still catching guys but I believe in Brad Wiggins and I believe we finally have a clean Tour de France champion and that's nice to see. I'm a big supporter of him but I still believe there's still room for improvement. There's still denial. We have directors and managers today who were racing back then and are still racing now and are still denying. I denied for a long time so I can't really fault them. It's part of the process.
The UCI, I'm not so confident in them but hope they will figure out a process for riders and staff to come forward and say what they know, small suspension or no suspension and if they choose to do it in this four-to-six month period then they will be rewarded for it and if not, then they may suffer consequences.
What are your thoughts on Bradley Wiggins?
I've always believed in Brad Wiggins, he's always been an advocate for anti-doping. I have no reason not to believe in Brad Wiggins.
Riders like Cavendish and Wiggins are annoyed because they're tainted by your generation.
It's not fair but it's reality. That's what it is. It sucks, it stinks for them. I feel bad. I feel worse for the younger guys. I feel bad for Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish but feel worse for the younger guys who had nothing to do with those guys. I did race with Brad and Cavendish so they overlap a bit but the young guys like Taylor Phinney who are brand new in the sport who had nothing to do with us. It's worse for them. The whole thing stinks. The quicker we can move on from this, the better, but we're in a turbulent time at the moment. You probably agree with me, we need changes in the UCI.
You know Lance Armstrong. You were part of his A team. Will he ever confess?
I hope so. I think denial is the first part of the process. When it all happens you are started and I hope it's just part of this process and I hope he's going through thinking about maybe telling the truth.
He's obviously a tough character. Mentally and physically strong. Probably thinks he can shoulder the weight and go to the grave with these secrets but I was planning on doing the same thing but luckily I got the opportunity to tell the truth and it changed my life. It really did and I think Lance is in a tough situation right now. He's got to be torn up inside. I think eventually we will see some of the truth come out. I hope so for the sake of cycling. We need some closure for that period. The best thing he can do for the sport of cycling, if he truly loves the sport, he needs to tell the truth. Do it for us. Do it for his kids. It's got to be awful.
What of the picture of Lance Armstrong and his yellow jersey?
Someone showed me that picture and it's clearly part of the denial process but he's clearly trying to show everyone he's relaxed and still believes.
What will he be going through?
I'm sure he's real angry inside. Probably I'm sure he's real angry at me that's for sure. I'm not sorry at what I've done. I back up everything I've said in interviews and in the book. He must be real angry and torn up inside. He's probably on a rollercoaster ride at the moment. I'm sure he's had major mood swings. I wouldn't want to be around that guy right now?
Is he the villain?
What's sad is everyone is pointing the finger at Lance Armstrong but it's way bigger than one individual rider. It's way bigger than me. It was the whole culture of the sport The whole sport was rampant, rampant with doping . At least 80% of the peloton was doping then. The majority of teams if they weren't doping themselves they knew what was going on. In 1997 you'd finish a race and they were handing out little a white lunchbags to you full of doping products in - like kids with a lunchbox.
What needs to happen now?
We need to figure out what happened, why and how to prevent it. If we don't figure it out then in five and six years we'll have it happen again - I guarantee that.