As Tyler Hamilton looks to return to the ProTour in less than a month, he showed that he has maintained much of the form that led him to be a favorite in the 2004 Tour de France. On Saturday, Hamilton won the Mount Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire.
You may recall that Tyler is not allowed to race in any sanctioned event no matter how small. In fact, professionals who rode with Tyler during a criterium series benefiting Tyler’s charity were told they too faced possible action for riding with a rider under suspension.
Photo ©: Matt Benassi
All the Tyler Hamilton news is not good however. News from the Operation Puerto investigation is linking “Rider 4142” to Hamilton. By comparing the doping schedule and racing schedule with certain riders in 2003, the Spanish police have concluded that rider 4142 is Tyler Hamilton. Tyler has not made any public statement since this news first started to leak out in June. From his website:
June 26, 2006
I was very upset to read the accusations against me and to see my name associated with the “Operacion Puerto” investigation in Spain. I have not been treated by Dr. Fuentes. I have not done what the article alleges. In addition, I have never been contacted by authorities in Spain regarding these allegations. Therefore, it is impossible to comment on a situation I have no knowledge of.
We do need to be careful here. Already, 5 Astana riders and virtually all of the Comunitat Valenciana team have been exonorated after being linked to Operation Puerto.
Now UCI president, Pat McQuaid, has already put two stakes in the ground. The first is that Tyler’s suspension is actually four years, not two since his suspension was finalized in 2005 after Hamilton’s unsuccessful appeal to the CAS.
The second stake is that given this “new” information, Tyler faces a lifetime ban for a second offence. As quoted before this year’s Tour de France:
“With the evidence which we seem to see in this dossier, he’s gone for life,” McQuaid said “The implications for the riders in the case are two years from WADA code and two years from the ProTour, that’s four years. And Hamilton, a ban for life. That would be a second offense.”
McQuaid faces two problems here. Taking either stand will cause embarrassment at the very least. First, in its ruling, the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) found Hamilton guilty and set his suspension date at September 23, 2004. Thus granting him a 2 year suspension. The additional 2 years was imposed for doping offenses occuring after Jan 2005. Pat must know the rules. If he dosen’t, ask David Millar who is back to racing after a similar ruling. In case you are reading Pat, here is the official ruling from the CAS:
ON THESE GROUNDS:
The Court of Arbitration for Sport hereby rules:
- The appeal filed by Mr Tyler Hamilton against the award dated 18 April 2005 rendered by the AAA Panel is dismissed.
- Mr Tyler Hamilton is ineligible to compete in cycling races for two years from 23 September 2004 until 22 September 2006.
- All questions of costs are reserved for consideration and will be the subject of a separate award.
Done in Lausanne, 10 February 2006
McQuaid’s second problem is his opinion that evidence from Operation Puerto is a second offence. That can’t be true. At most, it is confirmation of Tyler Hamilton’s guilt. He was already found guilty of doping during this time frame. If the UCI can prove Tyler Hamilton is rider 4142, then they now know how he did it. That is all.
Pat, if you push this, you are coming off as looking for publicity and not fairness. I don’t care how you feel towards doping. Apply the rules fairly and justly. That is what will give you the respect you need to govern the UCI. Focus on repairing the split between the ProTour and the Grand Tours. That is a problem of your making and needs attention.
The ultimate irony is that even if Tyler was subject to the ProTour’s additional 2 year ban, he could still ride the three Grand Tours, Paris Nice, Milan San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and a bunch of other great races.