By Charles Pelkey
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has appealed the agreement between the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and former pro Tyler Hamilton on the grounds that an eight-year suspension for a second doping offense should be subject to the court’s review.
In a papers filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), WADA has asked an arbitration panel to consider setting aside an agreement between USADA and Hamilton in which he accepted an eight-year suspension without contesting a positive doping test for testosterone.
Contacted by VeloNews, WADA spokesman Frédéric Donzé said that even though the original eight-year ban falls within provisions of the World Anti-Doping Code, the agency felt the agreement warranted independant review.
“A full legal consideration of this case pursuant to the World Anti-Doping Code shows that the applicable sanction for a second offence of this nature (in combination with the athlete’s first offence) is between a minimum of eight years to a lifetime ban,” Donzé wrote in an email. “Given that the eight-year sanction was the result of an agreement between USADA and the athlete, WADA considers that it warrants scrutiny from an independent tribunal. WADA has consequently appealed the agreement reached on a national level to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“This appeal is pending and WADA cannot comment further at this stage in order to protect the integrity of the proceedings,” he added.
“We were surprised,” said Hamilton’s attorney Chris Manderson, noting that he and Hamilton had only learned of the appeal through media reports.
Manderson later issued a statement in response to the WADA decision.
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.
Hamilton announced his retirement from cycling on April 19 of this year, when he also confirmed that he had tested positive following the February out-of-competition test.
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 sample was not confirmed, testers took another sample on September 11 of that year, after Hamilton won the eighth stage individual time trial at the Vuelta a España.
In June, Hamilton signed an acceptance of sanction form and USADA agreed not to pursue the case further.
At the time, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said the agreement was enough to ensure that Hamilton would not participate in competitive sport again.
“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,” Tygart said in June.
According to recent revisions to the WADA Code, penalties for a second doping offense can range from eight years to life. The revisions give anti-doping officials a degree of latitude when considering factors such as an athlete’s cooperation, age and other factors.
Tygart told VeloNews on Thursday that the eight-year agreement was a reasonable outcome of the case, particularly considering Hamilton’s age.
“If he’d have been 24, for example, we’d have never gone for it,” he said.
But WADA officials exercised their right under Article 13 of the World Anti-Doping Code to appeal the decision and seek the maximum penalty in the case. WADA will bear the cost of the appeal.
According to WADA, a decision in the case should be rendered within four months.