February 11, 2006 (Lausanne, Switzerland) – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the appeal filed by the US cyclist Tyler Hamilton against the decision made by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) on April 18, 2005 to suspend him for two years. In its award, the CAS has confirmed the reliability of the homologous blood transfusion test (HBT) applied to Hamilton during the 2004 Vuelta de EspaÃ±a.
On September 11, 2004, Tyler Hamilton won a stage of the Vuelta and underwent a blood test. The WADA accredited Laboratory in Lausanne/Switzerland reported that the sample provided by Hamilton was positive for the presence of transfused blood. On the basis of this report, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) initiated a disciplinary procedure which led to a hearing before the AAA. The AAA Panel found on April 18, 2005 that there had been a transfusion of a third person’s blood to Hamilton and accordingly that an anti-doping rule violation had been committed by him. He was suspended from competition for a period of two years commencing April 18, 2005 and all of his competition results from 11 September 2004 including those obtained in the Vuelta competition were cancelled. Later, Tyler Hamilton filed an appeal with the CAS in order to request the annulment of the suspension. He challenged the reliability of the HBT test which was applied to him on the basis that it was a “brand new test”.
A Panel of CAS arbitrators composed of Mr. Malcom Holmes QC, Barrister in Sydney/Australia, Ms. Maidie E. Oliveau, Attorney-at-law in Los Angeles/USA and Mr. David W. Rivkin, Attorney-at-law in New York/USA, heard the parties on two occasions in September 2005 and January 2006 in Denver/USA.
In a very detailed award, the Panel has found that the HBT test as applied to the samples delivered by Hamilton at the Vuelta was reliable, that on September 11, 2004 his blood did contain two different red blood cell populations and that such presence was caused by blood doping by homologous blood transfusion, a prohibited method under the UCI rules. As a consequence of this anti-doping rule violation, the CAS Panel has confirmed the two years’ suspension imposed on Hamilton. However, in application of the UCI Rules and as a matter of fairness, the CAS Panel has decided that the two years’ ineligibility should run from September 23, 2004 and not from April 18, 2005, as Tyler Hamilton voluntarily accepted a provisional suspension as from September 23, 2004. The suspension will come to end on September 22, 2006.
The decision in the CAS procedure initiated by the Russian Olympic Committee and Viatcheslav Ekimov concerning the gold medal won by Tyler Hamilton in the time-trial event at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens will be issued by CAS in the near future.
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With the following statement on his web site Hamilton will continue to defend his integrity and fight for improvements within the anti-doping system:
“Based on my devastating personal experience over the last year and a half, I am committed to fighting for reform within the anti-doping movement. I do support the anti-doping mission and USADA, however the current system has failed an innocent athlete and needs to change.
Out of respect to fairness and the rights of all athletes, there should be clear separation between the agencies that develop new tests and those that adjudicate anti-doping cases.
Credible, independent experts, not those who funded or developed the original methodology, should be charged with properly validating new tests.
I don’t believe any athlete should be subjected to a flawed test or charged with a doping violation through the use of a method that is not fully validated or generates fluctuating results.
I will also continue to support the formation of unions to help protect the rights of athletes. My goal is to keep other athletes from experiencing the enormous pain and horrendous toll of being wrongly accused.”