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Date Posted: 13:26:10 09/21/04 Tue
Author: yoyo
Subject: Re: Phonak news conference
In reply to: RockyMtnMerlin 's message, "Phonak news conference" on 11:35:54 09/21/04 Tue

>Supposed to be a Phonak news conference this evening.
>Anybody heard anything from it yet?
Olympic time-trial champion Tyler Hamilton took out a verbal hatchet Tuesday, fervently denying doping allegations tying the American to illegal blood boosting. "I can guarantee you I am 100 percent innocent," Hamilton said in a Zurich press conference convened by his Swiss Phonak team.

"I am devastated to be here tonight," Hamilton said, his eyes stern and sparked with anger.

"My family, team and friends are all devastated."

"I've been accused of taking blood from another person. Anyone who knows me knows that is completely impossible."

Hamilton reportedly showed blood anomalies after winning time-trial gold at the Athens Olympics and then at the Vuelta a Espana on September 11, when the Phonak rider won the race's Stage 8 time-trial.

Hamilton abandoned the three-week Spanish race on Stage 13, citing stomach problems.

The test that pinpointed Hamilton's alleged blood boosting is a recent addition to sport's war on drugs, developed by Australian researchers and inducted into cycling's anti-doping arsenal just this year.

Hamilton is the first "victim" of the new testing method, which seeks out blood abnormalities rather than the presence of specific banned substances.

The test classifies as suspicious blood that shows signs of manipulation due to homologous blood transfusions, a doping practice hitherto undetectable but common currency in a myriad of endurance sports since the early 1970's.

Currently, just two cycling laboratories (in Athens, Greece and Lausanne, Switzerland) are equipped to administer the new test.

"I can guarantee you the [Olympic] gold medal in Athens will be staying in my living room," Hamilton said at the press conference Tuesday evening, defying growing concerns that the American may be required to return his Olympic loot.

"I have always been a clean and fair rider. For someone to accuse me of doing that...,"Hamilton said before letting his voice trail off in palpable vehemence.

"Number one, it's risking my life. And number two it's risking my wife's life," Hamilton continued, referring to the risk of infection to himself and his entourage if he were to accept a transfusion of foreign blood.

A marquee name in United States cycling, Hamilton is a former teammate of fellow American and six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

A perennial major tour contender himself, Hamilton finished fourth overall at the 2003 Tour de France despite riding the majority of the race with a cracked collarbone.

In addition to his Athens Olympic title, the Massachusetts native also counts the Dauphiné-Libéré (2000), the Tour of Romandy (2003, 2004) and the spring super classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2003) on his race resume.

Broad-sided by Tuesday's doping charges, Hamilton said he was flummoxed by the positive result.

"We will find the reason why," Hamilton said. "This is a big blow to me and to the team. I'm very angry."

"And as you know, I have a lot of energy," Hamilton continued.

"I will fight until I don't have a single euro left in my pocket."

Eurosport - Andrew Taber - 21/09/2004

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