Hamilton hearing starts

Tyler Hamilton's future as a professional cyclist could well depend on the outcome of his three day hearing with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that begins today (Monday) in Denver, Colorado with a decision expected on March 12. Hamilton is hoping to prove that the scientific test used to detect blood doping, which was introduced in 2004, is not accurate enough to give a positive drug test.

In August and September of 2004, Hamilton failed three out of four tests that he was administered for homologous blood doping, with the fourth test result unable to be determined due to the freezing of the blood sample. Hamilton has strongly denied ever having a blood transfusion, which is indicated by such a positive test. His former teammate at Phonak, Santi Perez, also failed a test for homologous blood doping, and was yesterday given a two year suspension for doping by the Spanish Cycling Federation. He is expected to appeal that decision.

Hamilton's lawyer, Howard Jacobs, told the Denver Post that he was "fairly optimistic" of winning the case, as the test was relatively new in sports. "It helps it that if you have an athlete who tests positive for Nandrolone, which has been tested for 15 years, and you say, 'Hey, the test isn't valid,' you won't get far with that," said Jacobs. "But here the validity of the test has to be established. We've preached all along it's not a valid test. Maybe we know something they don't."

Although the test is new in sports, the science behind it (cytology) has been successfully used for 10 years in hospitals for organ transplants and pregnant women.

Related story: In the blood: How the new blood doping test works

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