PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Tyler Hamilton has said that he is still set on clearing his name and riding in the Tour de France again despite being handed a two-year ban for blood doping. The 34-year-old American is planning to appeal the decision at the Court for Arbitration in Sport. "It's all up to CAS," he told the Denver Post after hearing of the ban imposed by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
Hamilton's defence would appear to rest on two points. The first is his insistence that his blood is naturally abnormal; as part of his defence Hamilton's lawyer cited a scientific expert who was surprised by the low level of reticulocytes (immature red blood cells) in the American's blood. The second is the opinion of USADA arbitrator Chris Campbell, who voted against banning Hamilton.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, said Campbell, required all labs to provide an estimate of the measurement of uncertainty for testing methods involving blood. Campbell has said that the Lausanne lab involved in the Hamilton case did not do so. "Because the WADA transfusion positivity criteria and the testing methods fail to provide an accurately calculated rate of false positives, it fails to satisfy the prevailing standards of the scientific community. In this situation, USADA should not be able to sustain its initial burden of proof and the case against Mr Hamilton should be dismissed," Campbell concluded.
On his own website, Hamilton provides a very full explanation of the case as he sees it, including the low reticulocyte measurements. Hamilton cites "medical expert Jim Stray-Gundersen, who has conducted more than 10,000 blood tests on athletes participating in doping research programs". Hamilton says that in his testimony to the USADA hearing Stray-Gundersen said he had "only seen one test come up as low as mine - and it was an instance when he knew for a fact, the sample had been 'mishandled' during transport to the lab."
Explaining the development of his case, Hamilton gives a frank explanation of his red blood cell levels during last year's Tour of Romandie, when the UCI tested him (with a negative result) for EPO use. Elevated haematocrit (red blood cell) counts given by Phonak riders in Romandie were, suggests Hamilton, the result of a problem with the calibration of the testing machine.
Rumours were circulating after Romandie and leading up to the Tour de France last year that some teams had been warned about irregular blood test readings, and Hamilton acknowledges that Phonak were spoken to, but not for the reasons rumoured. "To clarify, the conversations about the results of my health tests were actually more about mutual concerns than accusations," says Hamilton.
"The Phonak team was the first to raise a red flag about results associated with my tests. The team felt there was something wrong with the UCI's health test measurements from Romandie. A meeting regarding those measurements took place in Switzerland in early May. The discussion boiled down to the fact that the Phonak team and UCI were using haematocrit machines manufactured by different companies. Phonak agreed to purchase the same machine the UCI uses. That machine was up and running for the team by the Tour de France."
Hamilton also offers a detailed analysis of his and his legal team's objections to the newly introduced test for blood doping that led to him quitting the Vuelta last September and eventually to Monday's two-year ban. Suggestions that he had blood transfusions at several points of the season do not, Hamilton claims, stand up to much scrutiny.
His hope now must be that the CAS finds more favour with his defence, as they did with his former Phonak team's demand for entry to the ProTour back at the start of this season.
Go to www.tylerhamilton.com to see a fuller account of Hamilton's case.