By Andrew Hood
Verbruggen, UCI confident in Hamilton case
UCI president Hein Verbruggen said he is confident doping charges leveled against Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton will stand up against challenges in court.
UCI officials are largely keeping mum on the Hamilton case, fully expecting the high-profile case to be challenged to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. Disciplinary hearings against Hamilton could begin as soon as this month.
Verbruggen defended the use of a new testing method that can detect the presence of banned blood transfusions, which debuted at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens.
“The application of the test was validated by WADA,” Verbruggen told VeloNews. “I’m confident the result will be in our favor.”
Hamilton is facing up to a two-year ban after a backup test taken at the Vuelta a España confirmed an initial positive test that showed evidence of banned blood transfusions. Hamilton was allowed to keep his Olympic time trial gold medal despite failing an “A” sample after testers inadvertently placed second “B” blood samples in a deep freeze, rendering red blood cells unusable for follow-up tests.
Hamilton has vehemently denied he injected someone else’s blood into his system and has promised to challenge the validity of the testing method to prove his innocence.
That’s something Verbruggen said the UCI expects and even welcomes.
“It’s a good thing that someone can challenge a test result. If the test conclusion is again confirmed, it’s a good thing for the UCI and our test,” Verbruggen continued. “If someone can prove their case, then that’s good too because we don’t want to be punishing innocent riders.”
The case is now under the jurisdiction of USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), which will eventually decide Hamilton’s fate.
According to Dr. Mario Zorzoli, head of medical at the UCI, cycling’s governing body fully expects the case to be challenged because it’s the first of its kind.
“We cannot provide any comments about this case,” Zorzoli told VeloNews. “It’s a first case and we had the experience with the first EPO tests that went to CAS. A lot of people have been making comments on the tests, and the validity, whatever else. We will keep a low profile and let the American federation at USADA do the hearings. We will see what happens after that.”
In the coming weeks, USADA officials will consider the evidence in a review panel, which then makes a recommendation to either proceed with or drop the matter.
Traditionally, these panels include three members: one member chosen by the athlete; another chosen by USADA; and a third assigned by the American Arbitration Association – often on the recommendation of the other two panelists.
Over the course of the next several months, the panel will hold a hearing, review the evidence and issue a recommendation. If the panel recommends that sanctions be imposed, the athlete’s final option is to take the case to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport for a last appeal.
That could take several months or even a year. —News editor Charles Pelkey contributed to this report
Quick Step loses two for season
World Cup leader Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) will tackle this weekend’s Tour of Lombardy without his chief lieutenant Luca Paolini, who broke his right hand in a fall in Sunday’s Paris-Tours.
Paolini is always there for Bettini, but is able to shine on his own when given the chance, a notion confirmed with his bronze medal at the road world’s earlier this month in Verona.
However, Paolini’s tumble late in Paris-Tours, which fractured the scaphoid bone of his right hand, bruised his hip and grazed his right leg, led doctors to prescribe a 60-day break, effectively ending his season.
“I am really sorry about this,” Paolini said. “I was passing a great period in top form. Seeing all of my hard work go flying out of the window for a silly accident is a great shame. I’m sure that if I hadn’t fallen I would have been among the leaders at the Paris-Tours.
“My bitterness increases when I think that I’ll not be able to take part next Saturday in the Tour of Lombardy. I know the route of that race like the back of my hand and I could have been of great help to Bettini in light of the World Cup.”
Another Quick Step rider is done for the season thanks to an earlier fall in Paris-Tours. Rising star Nick Nuyens, who won Paris-Brussels last month, fractured a finger in his left hand after crashing with about 60km to go. He, too, badly bruised and grazed the left hand side of his body and doctors ordered 30 days’ rest. “The first time I fell was after about 190 kilometres of racing. I changed my bike and started off again. I risked a bit too much when trying to catch up with and return to the group. I entered a roundabout too fast and lost grip from my front wheel. There was no avoiding the fall,” Nuyens said.
“It is a shame. It’s not nice finishing the season like this,” he continued. “I’m not in as good a form as I was a couple of weeks ago, but I am doing pretty well and am sure I could have been of great help to both the team and Bettini in the Tour of Lombardy. In moments like these one needs to be optimistic and think that this injury isn’t as bad as it first seemed yesterday afternoon.”
Garzelli done for season
Another big name done for the season is Stefano Garzelli. The 2000 Giro d’Italia champion complained of breathing problems and said he won’t be racing in the Tour of Lombardy this weekend.
Garzelli managed to win a stage in this year’s Giro, but never posed a serious threat to eventual winner Damiano Cunego. Later, at the Vuelta a España, Garzelli finished quietly in the top 15, but again was not a threat for the overall. He won the Tour of Aragon in Spain this spring based on placements ahead of Denis Menchov and is set to ride next year with Liquigas-Bianchi.
Locals turn out to cheer Heras
Roberto Heras might not be a favorite with the Spanish media, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t appreciated in his hometown. More than 3,000 people turned out to cheer the three-time Vuelta a España champion in a ceremony in his hometown of Béjar in western Spain.
“I don’t know if I will win another Vuelta, but I tell you now that I will always carry with me the people from Béjar,” said Heras, who was accompanied by his wife and child.
Heras left U.S. Postal Service after three years to lead Liberty Seguros, but fell flat in the Tour de France and eventually abandoned. Heras bounced back in the Vuelta and held off a late charge by Santi Pérez (Phonak) to win a record-tying third title.
Jan Ullrich’s team sponsor T-Mobile was left red-faced after forgetting to pay their star cyclist’s telephone bill, resulting in his line being cut.
According to Tuesday’s Bild newspaper, Ullrich, along with the rest of the T-Mobile team, receive free phone calls as a perk of the job. But when one of the 1997 Tour de France champion’s bills went missing he found himself in the same position as any of the telephone giants’ errant customers — unplugged. —Agence France Presse