Still plenty of obstacles to overcome
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
With a recent appearances on Good Morning America, OLN and comments to The Daily Camera in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Tyler Hamilton is setting the stage for his comeback this September when his two year suspension for blood doping expires on September 22, two days before the UCI's World Road Championship in Salzburg, Austria. Hamilton told his local paper that "I miss racing. I miss it a lot," after a local cycling event. "I didn't think I would miss it this much", he lamented. "But that's a good thing."
Hamilton has reportedly been training hard in Boulder for his comeback and told The Daily Camera, "I'll be ready." The American tested positive for blood doping at the Vuelta a Espana in September 2004, but kept his time trial gold medal from the Athens Olympics after an A-sample positive for blood doping could not be confirmed because the B sample had been frozen and so damaged beyond usability. Hamilton fought a long appeal process against the ban which was finally upheld in February 2006. Despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport's finding that he did indeed use banned blood-doping methods, Hamilton has continued to maintain his innocence and has always categorically denied he used any blood doping to enhance his performance.
However, according recent reports in Spain's El Pais newspaper based on the Operacion Puerto documents, Hamilton has also been deeply implicated in the Spanish doping scandal that broke last May. Currently, the 500 page Operacion Puerto dossier compiled by the Guardia Civil and the Spanish judicial authorities is being translated into various languages, including English. This arduous process should be completed in late July or early August and once that occurs, the translated dossier, including the allegations about the doping program allegedly prepared for Hamilton by Dr. Fuentes, a known professional collaborator with Hamilton's coach Dr. Luigi "Cecco" Checcini, will be sent from the UCI to USA Cycling. Once the American federation has this information in hand, they will pass it on to USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) for further investigation and review.
To be selected to the USA Cycling team that will compete in the Elite Cycling World Championship in Salzburg, Austria, Hamilton must first be on the roster of a professional cycling team, then be selected by USA Cycling to ride. If Hamilton is under investigation by either Spanish authorities or USADA, under the ProTour code of ethics, he will not be able to return to the roster of his last team, Phonak, nor race in any UCI cycling events. Additionally, it's highly unlikely that the UCI wants Hamilton to compete in the Elite Cycling World Championship in Salzburg after UCI President Pat McQuaid's comments that Hamilton was at risk for a lifetime ban if he was found culpable of further violations as a result of the Operacion Puerto information. Train as he might, Hamilton still has a sword of Damocles hanging over his head and may only see the Elite Cycling World Championship in Salzburg, Austria on TV if his situation doesn't clear up soon.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto