All results since '04 positive test forfeited

Updated: April 19, 2005, 9:38 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton called his suspension from competitive cycling a "tragedy" and vowed to clear his name.

Hamilton received a two-year ban and must forfeit all competitive results since he tested positive for blood doping in September, according to a ruling Monday by the independent American Arbitration Association-North American Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Hamilton can return to competition April 17, 2007, but has vowed to fight the suspension.

Hamilton told the Rocky Mountain News for Tuesday editions that he has hired a lawyer and will appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport at Lausanne, Switzerland.

"It caught me completely by surprise," Hamilton told the Denver newspaper. "Not for a second did I think it was going to turn out this way. The bottom line is an innocent athlete was suspended from competition.

"You could say it's a victory for (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), but I think it's better to say it's a tragedy for all athletes. I'm innocent."

The positive test occurred at the Spanish Vuelta race on Sept. 11, 2004, a month after Hamilton won the time trial at the Athens Olympics.

Hamilton allegedly tested positive in Athens, but that case was dropped. Nonetheless, the Russian Olympic Committee filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to strip Hamilton of his gold medal and give it to Vyacheslav Ekimov.

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel declined to comment on Hamilton's suspension and said he didn't know the status of the Russian appeal.

The arbitration panel ruled that Hamilton's positive sample was from a transfusion of another person's blood. That would increase Hamilton's red-blood-cell count and his endurance, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said.

Hamilton has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying he would never risk his or his wife's health for the sake of racing.

"This is far from over," he told the newspaper.

Based on blood tests done in spring and summer 2004, cycling's international governing body, Union Cycliste International, had warned Hamilton and his Phonak team that he was under suspicion.

"UCI took the necessary action to protect the integrity of its sport," said Terry Madden, USADA's chief executive officer. "This decision shows that sport is committed to protecting the rights of all clean athletes and that no athlete is above the rules."

Hamilton first tested positive for blood doping after winning the time trial at the Athens Olympics in August. The case was dropped after his backup sample was frozen, leaving too few red blood cells to analyze.

Prosecutors in Athens alleged in December that a doping laboratory destroyed Hamilton's blood sample.

The UCI denied Phonak a racing license last fall because Hamilton and two other team riders had been charged in drug cases in the previous three months. The decision meant Phonak cannot compete in UCI Pro Tour events this year, including the Tour de France.

Phonak fired Hamilton in November, nearly a year before his contract was set to expire. He said at the time that he agreed to leave to improve the team's chances of competing on the pro tour.

Hamilton was considered a possible successor to six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. The two were once teammates on the U.S. Postal Service team. Hamilton finished fourth in the 2003 Tour despite a broken collarbone.

Hamilton earned a six-figure salary with Phonak and has endorsement deals with Nike, Oakley and other sponsors.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press