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Phonak barred from ProTour despite sacking Hamilton

The Swiss-based Phonak team has lost an appeal to the Union Cycliste Internationale to race as part of the 2005 ProTour, despite its decision last week to fire American Tyler Hamilton in an effort to satisfy the governing body. The team’s hope of becoming part of cycling’s top tier was hampered after Hamilton and two other of the squad's star riders failed doping tests this year. Two weeks ago, the team’s title sponsor – a Swiss hearing aid manufacturer - hinted that it may pull out of the sport if the team were unable to compete in the UCI's new major race series. UCI officials told the

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UCI: Firing American ‘wasn’t enough’

By Staff and wire reports

Hamilton keeps his gold medal

Hamilton keeps his gold medal

Photo: AFP (file photo)

The Swiss-based Phonak team has lost an appeal to the Union Cycliste Internationale to race as part of the 2005 ProTour, despite its decision last week to fire American Tyler Hamilton in an effort to satisfy the governing body.

The team’s hope of becoming part of cycling’s top tier was hampered after Hamilton and two other of the squad’s star riders failed doping tests this year. Two weeks ago, the team’s title sponsor – a Swiss hearing aid manufacturer – hinted that it may pull out of the sport if the team were unable to compete in the UCI’s new major race series.

UCI officials told the French wire service AFP that Phonak chief Andy Rihs informed them of the decision to fire Hamilton as he unsuccessfully appealed last week to his team included in the 2005 Pro Tour championship.

“There are bigger problems there,” one official said. “It wasn’t enough at this point.”

The UCI’s licenses commission spoke even more bluntly in rejecting a license for Phonak, according to The Associated Press. “This team does not provide guarantees in respect of sporting ethics as they apply to doping,” the panel said. “Its admission to the UCI Pro Tour would … harm the image of cycling as a sport.”

Hamilton could not be reached for comment. However, he confirmed his dismissal in a posting on his website, saying that he and management had concluded “that it would not be possible for the team to continue at the level we hoped with my name on the roster. Specifically, it would be impossible for Phonak to be accepted into the UCI Pro Tour with one of its riders facing charges of using prohibited performance-enhancing methods.”

“I am very sad the challenges I face personally have had such a wide ranging impact on so many,” Hamilton wrote. “This ordeal now affects the Phonak riders, staff, sponsors and their families. On a personal level, and on behalf of everyone involved, I am more committed than ever to getting to the bottom of all this.”

The Zürich-based team’s troubles started when former world champion Oscar Camenzind tested positive for EPO in August. He admitted his guilt in the matter and announced his retirement from the sport.

Then, during the Vuelta a España, team leader and Olympic time-trial champion Hamilton tested positive for an illicit blood transfusion. The test came on the heels of another sample that produced an “adverse analytical finding” at the Olympics. Hamilton, however, was able to keep the gold medal, because Olympic officials were unable to test the rider’s B sample after it had been frozen, a violation of accepted laboratory protocols for the handling of whole blood samples.

Hamilton has vigorously maintained his innocence, but his defense took a big hit when teammate Santiago Perez also showed evidence of a homologous blood transfusion shortly after he finished second in the Vuelta.

The two riders – thus far the only ones to test positive for the presence of blood from another person – have challenged the methodology employed in the tests. While both were suspended, the team has also worked in support of their efforts. Phonak has established its own international scientific panel to examine the validity of the testing method.

But when the UCI published its final list of 19 ProTour teams on Tuesday, it apparently closed the door on further appeals. The news release outlining the list of teams that had met the UCI’s “legal, economic and ethical criteria,” for participation in the ProTour also noted that “no other declaration pertaining to the attribution of UCI ProTour Team licenses for the 2005 season will be made by members of the UCI Licenses Commission.”

Rihs and team manager Urs Freuler told the Reuters news agency that they had not yet decided whether to appeal to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Should the UCI’s decision stand, Rihs said the team would have to see if it could exist by seeking wild-card entries into major events like the Tour de France. Alternatively, the team could end the contracts of its top riders and spend next year contesting minor races.

In the worst-case scenario, Rihs conceded, Phonak may simply be forced to withdraw from professional cycling.

“The question is still open,” Rihs said. “We will just have to sit down with all the riders, and see how we can go forward.”


Release issued by the UCI –November 30, 2004
The UCI Licenses Commission has attributed on 22 November 2004, 19 ProTourTeam licenses for the 2005 season.Having met all the UCI regulations requirements, as well as all sports,legal, economic and ethical criteria’s imposed to join the UCI ProTour,the following candidatures were withheld on a definitive basis:

Esperanza bvba Quick Step BEL
Omega Pharma Davitamon-Lotto BEL
Riis Cycling A/S CSC DEN
Abarca Sport S.L. Illes Balears ESP
Active Bay S.L. Liberty Seguros ESP
Fundacion Ciclista Euskadi Euskaltel-Euskadi ESP
GM Bikes SA Saunier Duval-Prodir ESP
Cofidis Competition Eusrl Cofidis FRA
SA Vendée Cyclisme Bouygues Telecom FRA
Société de Gestion de l’Echappée FDJeux.com FRA
Vélo Club de Paris Crédit Agricole FRA
H-S-M GmbH Gerolsteiner GER
Walter Godefroot GmbH T-Mobile GER
Ciclosport Srl Domina Vacanze ITA
Liquigas Sport Spa Liquigas ITA
Bici Club Azzurro Srl Lampre-Caffita ITA
Silver Team Srl Fassa Bortolo ITA
Professional Cycling Promotion B.V. Rabobank NED
Tailwind Sports Corporation Discovery Channel USA

The following candidatures were not withheld:

ARcycling AG Phonak Hearing Systems SUI
France Cyclisme AG2R FRA
Sportpromotie Asbl Mr.Bookmaker.com Palmans BEL

The UCI Licenses Commission has taken note of the withdrawal of other candidatures. The annex the UCI publishes an integral text of decisions taken by the UCI Licenses Commission. Consequently, no other declaration pertaining to the attribution of UCI ProTour Team licenses for the 2005 season will be made by members of the UCI Licenses Commission.
General Organisation
Management Committee
Professional Cycling Council