The long awaited decision on the Tyler Hamilton blood doping case should be known Monday, according to sources within the UCI. 'The verdict is expected to be announced on Monday,' confirmed a senior UCI official to Cyclingnews this weekend.
While the official said he had no idea which way the verdict would go, there is some speculation within US cycling that Hamilton will not only be cleared, but that he could even line out at the Tour of Georgia starting next Tuesday.
'I've heard a rumour that Tyler Hamilton may be part of the race,' said a prominent US rider to Cyclingnews on Saturday evening. 'The decision is imminent, and the talk over here is that he is going to get off. A rumour is a rumour, but that is what some have been saying.'
If so, the verdict will be a massive boost for the Marblehead rider and a big setback to the UCI, who have insisted all along that the test for homologous blood doping, introduced in time for the Athens Olympic Games last summer, was 100 percent reliable.
Hamilton tested positive for blood transfusions on two occasions last year, shortly after winning the Olympic road time trial title and again during the Tour of Spain. He was later allowed keep his gold medal when the 'B' blood sample from the Athens laboratory was incorrectly frozen, preventing any verification of the initial test result.
The popular 34 year-old, who last rode for the Phonak Hearing Systems team, has maintained his innocence from the very beginning, vowing to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland should the initial ruling go against him. For their part, the UCI has been equally adamant that the test is watertight and provided proof of doping.
Hamilton's hearing with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) began in Denver on February 27, 2005 and continued until March 2. A ruling was expected within a few weeks of the hearing, but no verdict has been delivered since. Some observers have seen the delay as an indication of doubt about the test's reliability.
However, should Hamilton indeed be cleared on Monday, the case is unlikely to end there. 'The UCI will wait and see what happens in America, with regards the verdict. If necessary, we will take it to CAS after that,' said the UCI official.
It appears, therefore, that even if the Olympic champion does take to the start line in Augusta, Georgia next week, the battle is far from over.