By VeloNews Interactive
After photos of Tyler Hamilton in a local criterium showed up on the Internet, USA Cycling got a call from the UCI, wondering why a suspended rider was racing.
Two weekends ago, Hamilton joined a handful of other pros and a few hundred amateur racers in a non-sanctioned series race in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado.
Hamilton is currently serving a two-year suspension from a 2004 blood doping charge.
“They contacted us and asked, ‘What is Tyler Hamilton doing riding in a bike race with other UCI pros?’” said USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia. “We said it wasn’t sanctioned. They said, ‘What are you doing allowing suspended riders in non-sanctioned races?’”
Promoted by Denver-Boulder Couriers owner Chris Grealish, the four-week Stazio Criterium Series is insured through the Tyler Hamilton Foundation, which receives $5 for each $15 entry.
Under UCI rules, UCI professional riders cannot compete in events that are not sanctioned by their respective national governing bodies — unless that governing body grants an exemption.
USA Cycling seldom forbids pros from riding in local training races, regardless of sanctioning or affiliation.
“But we do withhold an exemption if the promoter or the association that holds the race does not agree to abide by our suspension rules,” Bisceglia said.
On Monday, USA Cycling sent all its professional teams and riders notice, threatening a 30-day suspension and a fine for participating in the Stazio races. Hamilton agreed to sit out the remaining races, however, and USA Cycling in turn told its professionals they were again free to compete in the races. “I might add that Tyler was extremely gracious,” Bisceglia said.
“Our practice is still to allow riders to participate in non-USA Cycling races — particularly in the case of ACA (The American Cycling Association), where I have offered them a blanket exception,” Bisceglia said. “It is not our intention to interfere with cycling at any level. Cycling is a growing sport and we support that at all levels.
“But we also have to recognize that we have to support the war on doping. This was a situation where we couldn’t serve both of those agendas as the same time.”
Grealish, who said his races are intended for local amateurs, explained that he set up his races outside the auspices of USA Cycling or ACA to allow a wider range of people to participate.
“We wanted to open them up to people,” Grealish said. “We wanted to provide an ease of access to the sport.”
“From a race-promotion standpoint, the Tyler Hamilton Foundation is one of a handful of sponsors that we have able to attract and work with for our events. And they are particularly interested in working with the junior categories. From a personal standpoint, I think it sucks that Tyler’s here racing our stuff, not racing on a ProTour team in Europe at the highest level of the sport where he belongs.
“To an extent, I don’t mind if these elite guys can’t do our stuff since they have so many other races. But to be told by anybody, who can and can’t race in them, is somewhat disturbing.”
The Tyler Hamilton Foundation supports youth cycling and a variety of causes surrounding multiple sclerosis. VeloNews could not reach anyone at the foundation, as its offices are closed through March 27. Hamilton also could not be immediately reached for comment.