The Downside of Winning

The sporting world continually reels from multiple scandals involving PEDs and cheating.

The sport of cycling has become the ‘golf’ of CEOs in recent years, but did not come out unscathed as many of its top athletes became involved in PED scandals of their own.

I spoke to one of those athletes plagued by scandal – Olympic gold medal winner and Tour de France racer, Tyler Hamilton. We talked about the pressures athletes are under to succeed, the rampant use of PEDs, changes he would’ve made and the business side of cycling.

Here are some of my takeaways.

Enormous pressure to win

In the business world, many up and coming entrepreneurs think they have to be cutthroat in order to succeed. That in order to win, you need to cheat and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not a question of ‘either/or’ – for myself and for Tyler. You may not have control about the end result, but you can control how you play the game.

He told me about the incredible pressure athletes feel to perform at a high level, mostly due to the money the title sponsors are willing to pay. Tyler was part of the U.S. Postal Service team in the 1990s that also included another high profile name, Lance Armstrong. Back then, the team’s budget was between $10-15 million. Nowadays, the budgets are much higher, so too is the pressure to perform.

It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up

At the peak of his cycling career, Tyler was competing in a number of prestigious races – Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, and winning a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. He had a lucrative contract in a high profile team, basking in the limelight himself…and then it all came crashing down.

He was outed as a cheater and stripped of all his accolades. He was also called to testify against his former teammate Lance Armstrong. If that’s not a fall from grace, I don’t know what is. He paid a high price but instead of wallowing in his own pity party, he decided to turn things around. He wrote a book titled, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs” and started the Tyler Hamilton Training – a one-of-a-kind coaching experience aimed to bring world-class training to cyclists and triathletes of all ages.

Tyler has been able to rise from the ashes, and I believe anyone can do it. We’re all human beings and in this case (and many others), no one died. The notoriety may not be the same, but when all is said and done, honesty is always the best policy. As Tyler himself said, “You can always turn the ship. Always start anew.”

The truth shall set you free

One of the most difficult things Tyler ever had to do was tell his parents he was guilty of doping. He tells me he lied to them for years and it was “brutal.” He received death threats and hate mail from random strangers, but he was OK with that. He knew he had screwed up, but felt he had done the right thing being truthful.

His advice to anyone who will listen is, “Be truthful. Once you start lying and cheating, you keep on doing it. It’s a snowball effect.” I admire that about him. It’s really easy to point fingers and judge, but it takes even bigger guts to stand up for what’s right and reinventing yourself in order to turn a negative into a positive.

Jeffrey Hayzlett
About the author: 

Jeffrey Hayzlett is the Chairman of C-Suite Holdings, the parent company of the C-Suite Network.  He is a global business celebrity and former Fortune 100 C-suite executive.  Jeffrey is a leading business expert, cited in Forbes, SUCCESS, Mashable, Marketing Week and Chief Executive. His a commentator on television networks like Bloomberg, MSNBC, Fox Business and C-Suite TV. Hayzlett is a former Bloomberg contributing editor and the author of 2 bestselling business books. Currently, Jeffrey leads C-Suite Network, The Hayzlett Group, and TallGrass Public Relations. Follow him on Twitter.