Phonak may take him back if innocent
Tyler Hamilton's future as a professional cyclist is still uncertain, as the outcome of his US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) arbitration hearing has not been determined. The hearing took place in Denver, Colorado between February 27 and March 2, but according to Hamilton on his website (www.tylerhamilton.com), the case has still not been closed.
"Normally a case closes when the hearing ends," wrote Hamilton in his latest update. "However, my case was fairly complicated given the amount of testimony provided. So, for a number of reasons, it is still officially open. Once it closes, the arbitrators will have ten days to write an opinion. It's difficult to wait, but I appreciate that the panel is taking its time to evaluate all sides and give careful consideration to the testimony. There is an awful lot at stake." When contacted by Cyclingnews, the USADA would not comment about a possible date of the Hamilton verdict.
Hamilton further explained, "Five and a half months of research and effort went into those four days in Denver. And it was kind of liberating to be able to speak freely about what I've faced in that time period. Even if it was a closed proceeding and there were only a handful of people in the room. It felt good to finally be heard."
There was some more positive news for the American from his former team, Phonak Hearing Systems, which said that it would not rule out taking him back if he was found innocent. Before the final stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday, Phonak's team patron Andy Rihs was quoted by Procycling as saying, "We don't know the verdict yet so we can't comment...but if Hamilton was proved innocent we would certainly be open to discussion with him." Rihs added that it would be up to the new team manager, John Lelangue, to make any decision regarding Hamilton's re-hiring.
Last year, Phonak set up an independent scientific panel to look into the validity of the test that found Hamilton and teammate Santiago Perez positive for homologous blood doping. Rihs said that the panel has yet to release its findings. "To my mind, you can only apply a test when it has been validated, and this method hasn't been validated," he said. "Our commission only received the information it needed in January. We expect them to report back soon."