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Hamilton returns Olympic medal to USADA

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency confirmed on Friday that Tyler Hamilton has returned the gold medal he won in the individual time trial at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Hamilton atop the podium at the 2004 Olympics. | Photo: AFP (file photo) Hamilton’s decision to voluntarily surrender the medal to…

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The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency confirmed on Friday that Tyler Hamilton has returned the gold medal he won in the individual time trial at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Hamilton atop the podium at the 2004 Olympics. | Photo: AFP (file photo)

Hamilton’s decision to voluntarily surrender the medal to USADA officials follows an announcement that he had confessed to having doped at the height of his professional cycling career in an interview with CBS, which will broadcast on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” news magazine.

Late last year, Hamilton was subpoenaed by Federal authorities investigating allegations of doping that have been leveled against his former U.S. Postal Service teammate, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Sources close to the investigation have said the case has since grown to include a review of allegations involving fraud, misappropriation of federal funds and money laundering.

In an email sent to friends and family on Thursday, Hamilton said that his six hours of testimony before the grand jury was “like the Hoover dam breaking. I opened up; I told the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And I felt a sense of relief I’d never felt before.”

Hamilton’s testimony and the interview he granted to CBS support allegations leveled against Armstrong a year ago by former teammate Floyd Landis, who was himself stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title after testing positive for testosterone.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart said that Hamilton’s medal was returned to a representative of the agency.

“As stated by the IOC, I can confirm that Tyler Hamilton has given his gold medal from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to USADA and that we will continue to work with the IOC and the USOC as appropriate concerning the final implications of our overall investigation,” Tygart said in an email on Friday.

“USADA continues its ongoing investigation into the sport of cycling. Where there is credible evidence of doping, a fair and thorough process exists for resolving such violations. We do not comment on the substance of an active investigation, but as always we remain committed to protecting the rights of clean athletes and preserving the integrity of sport.”

Hamilton won the 2004 gold medal less than a month before testing positive for homologous blood doping in a test conducted after a time trial victory at the Vuelta a España.

Samples from the Olympic testing lab did show signs of blood doping, but WADA and IOC officials had not yet coordinated their positions on what constituted a positive result under the then-new testing protocol. As a result the B sample, necessary to confirm a test result, was stored in a freezer, rendering it impossible to compare red blood cells, which are destroyed when frozen.

Hamilton was stripped of his results from the Vuelta and eventually banned from the sport for two years, but absent a confirming test from the Athens Games, his time trial result was allowed to stand. Hamilton then embarked on a lengthy and expensive two-year legal battle to challenge the test result and then appeal the decision of an arbitration panel to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Hamilton lost that effort and was suspended for two years. His return to the sport produced sporadic results, although he did win the U.S. national road title, before facing a life-time suspension after testing positive for the testosterone precursor, DHEA. He eventually agreed to retire and accept an eight-year suspension and conceded that his life as a professional cyclist was over.

Hamilton, however, voluntarily returned the medal in conjunction with his public declaration and apology for having doped.

“My Mom and Dad always told me that the truth would set me free. I never knew how right they were,” he wrote in the email released on Thursday.

Armstrong, meanwhile, has continued to deny that he ever used performance-enhancing drugs and has worked with attorney Mark Fabiani to present his case to the public.

Soon after the announcement that Hamilton had alleged that he had seen Armstrong inject EPO and engage in other doping practices, Armstrong used his Twitter account to respond to more than 2.8 million followers.

“20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case,” Armstrong Tweeted.

He then directed readers to a website – www.facts4lance.com – in which he layed out a more detailed case, segmented into categories such as “Floyd Landis & 60 Minutes,” “Hamilton is not credible,” and, referring to another former teammate who has leveled accusations of doping against Armstrong, “Andreu is not credible.”

In a statement posted to the site, Fabiani characterized Hamilton as “a confessed liar in search of a book deal.”

The site further alleges that Hamilton had struck a deal with federal authorities to let him keep the gold medal in exchange for testimony against Armstrong, although it is unclear how U.S. Justice Department officials would have the authority to act in place of the International Olympic Committee in such a fashion.

“We believe government investigators have promised Hamilton that he can keep his gold medal — even after he publicly admits to doping — as long as he implicates Lance Armstrong,” a statement on the site alleged.

As of publication of this story, the statement remains on the site, despite Hamilton’s decision to return the medal.

Hamilton finished ahead of another former Postal rider, Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov in the 2004 individual time trial event in Athens. Fellow American, Bobby Julich finished third and Australian Michael Rogers finished fourth.

On Thursday, Armstrong had sent out a congratulatory message to Ekimov, again via Twitter, applauding the Russian, now a director at Armstrong’s RadioShack team, for his “3rd Olympic Gold Medal!!”

Ekimov won a gold in the team pursuit at the 1988 Olympics and another in the individual time trial at the Sydney Games in 2000.