The Court of Arbitration of Sport ordered the UCI to place the Swiss-based Phonak squad back on to the roster of teams contesting the 2005 ProTour.
Partly upholding an appeal by Phonak, the CAS said it had “set aside” the decision by the Union Cycliste Internationale last November to exclude the team from this year’s ProTour after three of its riders failed doping tests in 2004.
The panel of three legal experts granted the team a license for a reduced period of two years instead of the usual four. The team could not be excluded now, the court ruled, because at least two of the riders, U.S. team leader Tyler Hamilton and Spain’s Santiago Perez, were still appealing their cases, the Lausanne-based court said.
Nonetheless, the cycling’s governing body still had the power to revoke the license at any time if the team was found to have fallen foul of the rules, it added.
“While respecting the will of the UCI to be strict in the fight against doping, the CAS arbitrators have considered that it was not possible, at this stage, to remove the Phonak team from the Pro Tour on the sole basis of doping suspicions concerning the two riders and before knowing the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings regarding them,” CAS said.
Although it granted Phonak a license for 2005 and 2006, the panel noted that the license could be revoked “at any time in case of non-compliance of one of the criteria established for the granting of such a license.”
Phonak owner Andy Rihs said he was happy with even the limited scope of the ruling.
“We’re really very pleased with this decision,” Rihs said. “We were always convinced that our team had the class to be in the ProTour. Now the legal hurdles have been out aside and we can show our sporting worth at the highest level.”
Phonak rider Oscar Camenzind, the 1998 world champion, tested positive for the banned endurance drug EPO (Erythropoietin) during training in July and later retired from the sport. Team leader and Olympic time trial gold medallist Tyler Hamilton then failed a test for an illicit blood transfusion in September, followed by Spanish rider Santiago Perez shortly after he finished runner-up in the Vuelta a España. The two remain the only athletes who have ever tested positive for homologous blood doping.
Phonak subsequently sacked Hamilton and the team replaced its top managers. CAS also rejected another charge leveled against the Zürich-based squad, that of violating sporting ethics, as well as the UCI’s objections to the contracts of some of the team’s riders.
Phonak had set up its own international scientific panel to examine the validity of the testing method used to detect illicit transfusions on Hamilton and Perez.
The yest has been approved by international sports governing bodies including the International Olympic Commission (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Under UCI rules, the Lausanne-based sports court has the power to set aside a decision made by cycling’s License Commission if such a decision is “materially ungrounded or is evidently unjustified.”
The UCI issued a press release soon after the CAS decision:Press Release : Phonak Team : CAS Decision
The International Cycling Union has taken note of today’s decisionfrom the Court of Arbitration for Sport to grant a UCI ProTour licenseto the Phonak team for the years 2005-2006.The UCI’s License Commission had refused to grant a license. In accordancewith the procedure laid down in the UCI ProTour regulations, the Phonakteam had appealed against this decision to the CAS.The UCI has taken note of the CAS decision, which proves the independenceas much of the License Commission, as of the CAS and the validity of theprocedures put into place within the frame of the UCI ProTour.The UCI welcomes the Phonak team within the UCI ProTour. This team willbe the 20th UCI ProTeam for the 2005 season.UCI Press Service