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
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
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.