Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Phonak releases Tyler Hamilton as team endures ban

AP , GENEVA

Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton was fired by his cycling team two months after testing positive for blood doping.

The Swiss-based International Cycling Union, or UCI, said Tuesday the Phonak team told the governing body that the American rider's contract was terminated last week.

Hamilton confirmed the dismissal in a statement on his Web site and criticized the UCI for speaking publicly about his case before the judicial process was completed.

"I know I will be vindicated," Hamilton told AP in a telephone interview. "My hope is to get this past me as soon as possible. We're just waiting to have this hearing, which at the moment they haven't even set a date."

Hamilton tested positive for an illegal blood transfusion at the Spanish Vuelta in September and plans to contest the results at a January hearing in Colorado. He faces a possible two-year ban if found guilty.

"As for me and my family, we're ready. The sooner the better. ... I'll be vindicated and I'll be racing in 2005," he said.

Phonak declined to comment on Hamilton's firing, though it posted Hamilton's statement on its Web site.

Hamilton's contract was scheduled to expire in December 2005. He said on his Web site that he agreed to leave to improve the team's chances of competing on the pro tour.

Phonak was denied a racing license by the UCI on Tuesday because of the team's doping problems. Hamilton and two other Phonak riders have been charged in drug cases in the past three months. The decision means Phonak is barred from competing in all major events next year on UCI's Pro Tour, including the Tour de France.

Phonak told UCI about Hamilton's dismissal while the organization was considering the team's license, but the governing body said the decision to fire Hamilton made no difference in its decision.

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