Hellgate High School seniors received some down-to-earth real life advice from Tyler Hamilton, Hellgate High School graduate and former professional cyclist whose career was destroyed due to his use of performance enhancing drugs.

Hamilton shared his true story with the Hellgate students.

“I was once one of the world's top cyclists,” began Hamilton. “I was an Olympic gold medalist. I raced the Tour de France eight times, and I was hoping to win it someday. After testing positive for performance enhancing drugs my entire world came crashing down, and I lost everything I had worked for.”

Hamilton continued his story to the graduates.

“I can stand here today and tell you that everyone else was doing it, or that my team doctors made me do it, or tell you any of the other things I used to tell myself back then to justify what was really happening,” he said. “The truth was simple. I was turning my back on my values and everything I believed in to chase a dream I so badly wanted.”

Hamilton then told the students they, too will face such a moment of decision.

“In every profession, in every sport and in every group, people around you will tell you that it’s OK to cut corners,” he said. “It’s OK to bend the rules and it’s OK to look the other way. Your gut will kick in, and when it does, listen. Know that if something doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right. Don’t ever second guess yourself.”

Wrapping up his short address to the Hellgate graduates, Hamilton offered the benefit of his hard won experience.

“In 2010, almost a decade after I stood on the podium in Athens, I gave my gold medal back,” he said. “I can stand here today and tell you without a doubt that giving it back felt 100 percent better than winning ever did. Thank you, and good luck Class of 2021.”

Hamilton became a professional cyclist in 1995 with the US Postal Service cycling team. He was a teammate of Lance Armstrong during the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Tours de France. In 2012, he co-authored a book The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs.

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