Tyler Hamilton is the new USPRO National Champion. Let that sink in a little. Cyclists seem to fall into two camps over the guy either loving him or loathing him with very few people in between those opinions. While no one has even remotely hinted at caring what I might think about the situation, I'll jump right in and give my two cents worth anyway.
Tyler tested positive, was found guilty of a doping violation, and served a two year suspension plus a further two year banishment to the kids table after that. When he signed with Michael Ball and Rock Racing it seemed like some horrible Vegas sideshow of a comeback, destined for some kind of spectacular "Where are they now?" type of flame out. And then with the signing of other convicted dopers, coupled with Ball's over the top "look at me, look at me!" persona was just a "Jerry Springer is our new director sportif" announcement away from a complete fruit salad.
The Tour of California shadow tour didn't allay these fears. Content with spectacle over substance, I was afraid that Ball was in cycling for all the wrong reasons and was going to do more damage than any had imagined. Little by little, the hype machine wound down and the riders spoke with their legs and not their mouths. Hamilton's performance at the USPRO Championships spoke much more than even Michael Ball could have done.
The fact of the matter is that Hamilton has served his suspension and is back in accordance with the rules of the sport. Now it seems like that isn't good enough. Now people want some weepy, Oprah moment where he admits to everything, wails he is sorry and begs for forgiveness. This only brings closure to the voyeur inside us who secretly enjoys the trainwreck of innuendo and quasi-objective scientific testing data that lands someone in the powerful clutches of WADA and USADA. Innocent or not, the guy has done his time and deserves to find his place in the sport once again.
For comparison, I would like to refresh memories of David Millar, convicted doper turned anti-drug advocate. Millar was allowed to return to the top end of the sport directly from his two year suspension, unlike Hamilton who was convicted after Millar. Hamilton's is a much tougher road to comeback on. That alone deserves respect. Mistakes in the past do not make for evil futures and it is up to Hamilton to plot his own future wisely.