By Charles Pelkey
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has withdrawn its appeal of the eight-year suspension of former Rock Racing rider Tyler Hamilton.
Hamilton tested positive for testosterone or its precursors in February. He later acknowledged the positive test, declined to ask for further confirmation of the result and announced publicly that he had taken DHEA as self-medication for depression.
Since the case involved Hamilton’s second doping offense, he could have been eligible for a life-time suspension. However, in negotiations with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Hamilton agreed to not contest the case and accepted an eight-year suspension – the low-end of possible penalties for a second offense. That agreement was signed on June 16.
In July, however, WADA announced plans to challenge the eight-year suspension to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport on the grounds that the agreement “warrant(ed) scrutiny from an independent tribunal.”
In a brief statement issued Thursday, WADA announced that it would drop the appeal.
“Following receipt of the background information that was not available to WADA when the appeal was launched, WADA has determined that the eight-year sanction imposed by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was appropriate in the particular circumstances of this case,” the statement noted.
WADA did not elaborate on what that new information might be, but the agency’s decision to withdraw from the case come just three days after Hamilton’s attorney, Chris Manderson, filed his answer to the appeal.
In an email to VeloNews on Friday afternoon, Manderson said he commended WADA “for finally doing the right thing.”
“WADA’s appeal was wrong on the law and wrong on the facts,” Manderson said.
“It is no surprise that WADA dropped its case only three days after we filed Tyler’s appeal brief, which destroyed WADA’s specious arguments for a lifetime suspension and made the highly unusual request for a full public hearing,” he added.
Hamilton could have faced a lifetime ban due to his 2004 suspension for homologous blood doping, a violation first noted by anti-doping officials at that year’s Olympic Games. While the Athens test was not confirmed because the B sample had been destroyed, testers took another sample on September 11 of that year, after Hamilton won the eighth stage individual time trial at the Vuelta a España.
That test showed Hamilton to be positive and the former Phonak rider embarked on a two-year effort to overturn his suspension. His suspension was ultimately upheld by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Hamilton announced his retirement from cycling on April 19 of this year, when he also confirmed that he had tested positive following an out-of-competition test in February.
When the June agreement was announced, USADA CEO Travis Tygart noted that the eight-year suspension was a reasonable outcome, particularly since Hamilton was already well into the twighlight of a pro career.
“In the sport of cycling, eight years’ ineligibility for a 38-year old athlete is effectively a lifetime ban, and an assurance that he is penalized for what would have been the remainder of his competitive cycling career,” he said.
“If he’d have been 24, for example, we’d have never gone for it,” Tygart told VeloNews in July.