Originally created 09/22/04

U.S. gold medalist denies allegations of blood doping



REGENSDORF, Switzerland - Olympic cycling champion Tyler Hamilton declared his innocence Tuesday while awaiting results of backup tests for possible blood doping that could cost him the gold medal.

"I have always been an honest person. I am devastated to be here tonight. My family is devastated. My team is devastated. My friends are devastated," Hamilton said, adding that he would "fight this until I don't have a euro left in my pocket."

Tests at the Athens Olympics on Aug. 19 and at the Spanish Vuelta on Sept. 11 showed evidence of blood from another person, cycling's governing body said, according to a spokesman for Hamilton's team, Phonak.

Follow-up tests were started Tuesday and will be finished today, although it isn't clear when the results will be announced, Hamilton said.

If found guilty of a violation at the Olympics, Hamilton would lose his gold. Three athletes had gold medals revoked for doping during the Aug. 13-29 Olympics; a record 24 athletes - none American - from various sports were cited for drug-test violations at the Athens Olympics.

"I am 100 percent innocent," Hamilton said. "I worked hard for that gold medal, and it isn't going anywhere."

Hamilton already was considered one of the world's top cyclists before winning the time-trial race in Athens. He finished fourth in the 2003 Tour de France despite riding most of the way with a broken collarbone; he pulled out midway through the 2004 Tour because of a back injury.

He said he didn't find out about the result of the Olympic test until Saturday and learned about the other Sept. 16 - the day he pulled out of the Vuelta, citing stomach problems. He acknowledged Tuesday that that move was partly because of the blood test.

Cycling's governing body, UCI, used a new blood-screening machine in the tests that detects blood transfusions, human growth hormone and synthetic hemoglobin. Until now, there has been no foolproof test for detecting blood transfusions.

Andy Rihs, chairman of the board of Phonak, said he didn't trust the new methods.

"I don't believe in the test," Rihs said. "I think this test was done sloppily, and I am pretty clear that whatever the test comes out tomorrow, I stand behind Tyler."

Former world champion Oscar Camenzind was fired by Phonak and retired from the sport after testing positive for EPO shortly before the Olympics. "I don't fire innocent people," Rihs said.