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Hamilton tests positive, retires from cycling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Olympic gold medal-winner Tyler Hamilton has tested positive for a banned substance and retired from cycling, the American said Friday.

Tyler Hamilton of the U.S. races in the prologue of the Amgen Tour of California in Sacramento, February 14, 2009. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

Hamilton said he is battling depression and admitted taking an over-the-counter homeopathic anti-depressant containing the steroid DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.

“There are times when you are at such a low, low point anything that you can do -- if it was taking a hammer and hitting yourself over the head you’d do it to feel better,” he said during an emotional teleconference.

“I was desperate. Was it the right decision? Absolutely not. At the time I didn’t think about the consequences. The people who suffer from the disease of depression...understand my drastic decision.”

Hamilton, who said he was first diagnosed with depression in 2003, acknowledged he tested positive for DHEA during an out-of-competition test on February 9 while he was training for the Tour of California.

The 38-year-old Massachusetts native denied he used the steroid to enhance his athletic performance, citing, in part, his next-to-last finish in the race.


“In general athletes are placed on a pedestal,” he said. “Society expects them to be so physically fit, they’re going to be mentally fit as well.

“I tried not to show any weaknesses in front of my teams over the years and in front of my competitors. But behind closed doors I’ve been suffering a lot.

“Now is the day when I’ve decided to come out and tell the world that this is a disease that I can’t take lightly. I need to deal with it head-on.”

Rock Racing rider Hamilton, the U.S. national road champion, won the Olympic gold medal in the time trial at the 2004 Athens Games. In September of that year, he tested positive for blood doping and served a two-year ban.

A second doping offence is subject to a ban from eight years to life, according to the WADA code.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said despite Hamilton’s retirement, it will reveal the cyclist’s sanction “in the coming months.”

Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball said WADA had been “completely off the mark as far as an individual trying to right themselves and ultimately getting sanctioned for it.

“It’s a very tough day for me because my goal was to give Tyler a second chance,” he said.

Additional reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Alison Wildey/Rex Gowar; To query or comment on this story email