American professional bike racer Tyler Hamilton announced his retirement on Friday and also revealing that he has tested positive for a banned substance for the second time in his career. Hamilton was found to have the steroid precursor DHEA in his system after a random drug test a few days before the start of the Tour of California. Unlike his first positive test in 2004 at the Vuelta a Espana, Hamilton did not challenge the result.
The most interesting part of this revelation is that Hamilton acknowledged that he knowingly took the banned substance as part of an over-the-counter anti-depressant medication and that he has been suffering from depression since 2003. As this is his second doping offense it was likely that either a long-term or even a lifetime ban would be imposed. But, Hamilton denied that a lengthy suspension was the reason for his retirement. Instead he insisted that the need to deal with his depression was the reason he has hung up his cleats.
Hamilton told those attending a Friday morning teleconference that he had been on prescription anti-depressants for almost four years, but that a number of factors including his mother's recent diagnosis of breast cancer had taken its toll and even doubling the prescribed about of his medication had no appreciable affect. So, in early February he took the over-the-counter anti-depressant supplement 'Mitamin' knowing that it contained the banned substance DHEA, but feeling like he had few options given his mental condition.
It should be noted that there appears to be no performance enhancing effect to using DHEA, but it is a banned substance. There is so much more to write here. But, in my first blog posting on this subject I wanted to get the facts out there, as I understand them, first then discuss the implications later.
Suffice it to say, anyway you look at this it is a tragic end to Hamilton's career. Before we all start trying Tyler in the court of public opinion, we first need to make sure he can get the help he needs to deal with his depression.