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O'Neill still battling but able to race in 2009

Nathan O'Neill in happier days

Nathan O'Neill in happier days (Image credit: Caroline Yang)

Toyota-United becomes 2007 NRC team champ

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Multiple Australian time trial champion Nathan O'Neill is still battling with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority panel over the length of his suspension after admitting to using the appetite suppressant Phentermine. He made the admission after testing positive at the 2007 Tour of Elk Grove, in which he won the opening prologue and overall title. The wins were taken away and O'Neill was given a reduced 15 month suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an appeal demonstrated a degree of no significant fault by the rider.

Another outcome of the decision came about recently, albeit quietly. USA Cycling revised the team NRC standings for 2007, adjusting for the revoking of O'Neill's Elk Grove wins. Because he raced Health Net-Maxxis at the time, the change resulted in Toyota-United claiming the team NRC title for that year in a close points race.

Since O'Neill's appeal, the ASADA panel has argued the details of his suspension with O'Neill and his lawyer – trying to get the maximum time out of the suspension period in what O'Neill thinks is the panel trying to use the situation to make an example. "[The panel] wanted the maximum sentence of two years, then they backed down to 15 months, but now they want it from the date of notification. It's is so trivial and splitting hairs."

The difference between when the actual suspension started is only a month, and would change his possible return date from mid-November to mid-December. O'Neill is fighting this, but mostly out of spite, since the neither date falls within the racing season. "If the appeal is even allowed to be heard and they win, it will mean the 15 months from the day I was notified. So it will mean the middle of December instead of November, but as long as I can race by January it doesn't matter."

With the problems between him and the ASADA seemingly behind him, the bigger problem is finding a ride for next season. In an already tough market with so many riders still without teams, O'Neill said the perceived uncertainty of his 'racing status' for 2009 has not helped in securing a contract. He said he was in talks with Rock Racing for a time but that the negotiations remain ongoing.

"It's a tough market right now, but I want people to know that I am able to race next season."

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