Devastated Hamilton asserts his innocence

Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton denies blood doping and vows he is prepared to spend as m

Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton denies blood doping and vows he is prepared to spend as m
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Embattled Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton last night vowed to fight to prove his innocence of blood doping until he doesn't "have a cent left in my pocket." Hamilton was reacting at a press conference in Zurich to news of his positive A-samples in tests at both the Olympics and the Vuelta a Espa¤a. It is believed that both samples showed evidence of transfused blood from another person. Results of B-tests on both samples are due on Wednesday. "I'm devastated to be here tonight," Hamilton commented at a press conference in Zurich last night. "My family is devastated, my team is devastated and my friends are devastated. I can guarantee you that I am 100 per cent innocent." Hamilton has apparently fallen foul of new blood testing procedures introduced this summer by both the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the International Olympic Committee. If convicted, the 33-year-old American will earn a dubious distinction: that of the first athlete ever to be found guilty of doping in a blood test. Based on research published in the scientific paper 'Demonstration of an homologous blood transfusion by quantifying antigens in blood groups' in November 2003, the Australian-pioneered method to detect blood transfusions is widely used in paternity tests. Its cytofluorometric technology is available in most common blood-testing laboratories. In sport, however, only UCI laboratories in Lausanne and its IOC equivalent in Athens are authorised to carry out the tests. Last night, Hamilton strongly denied having recourse to blood transfusions. He contests both positive samples: from the Vuelta, of which he was alerted last Thursday, and from the Olympics, confirmed by IOC officials on Saturday. "I've always been an honest person since I grew up," Hamilton said. "My family taught me to be an honest person. I've always believed in fair play. This result on Thursday night and another one on Saturday afternoon was a major surprise to me. I've been accused of taking blood from another person, which if anybody knows me, knows that that is impossible. I can tell you what I did and did not put into my body. Cycling is very important to me but not that important. If I ever had to dope I'd hang the bike on the rack. "I've always been a clean rider, I've always been a fair rider," Hamilton continued. "I've been taking part in the out of competition tests for the last five years. And for someone to accuse me of doing that... number one that's risking my life. Number two that's risking my wife's life. It's a big blow to me. It's a big blow to my team." Reeling from the second doping controversy to hit his team in recent weeks after Oscar Camenzind's positive test for EPO, Phonak patron Andy Rihs last night prepared to defend Hamilton. "We don't fire innocent people and if the 'B' test is positive as well we'll still stand by Tyler," said Rihs. "We believe Tyler independently of these results. We don't believe that the test is reliable. It's more of a probability test. We have scientific papers which question the reliability of these tests. We think this test (at the Vuelta) or the IOC test, at least, were done sloppily. The IOC test is suspect because the results were released one month after it was done."
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