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Olympic gold medalist not giving up hope

DENVER -- Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton got back on
his bicycle for a training ride Tuesday morning, saying the fight
isn't over after his two-year suspension for a blood-doping
violation.

Hamilton, who has consistently denied any doping violation, said
he plans to appeal Monday's suspension to the Court of Arbitration
for Sport in Switzerland within the next three weeks.

"Hopefully, the CAS hearing can go relatively quick and I can
salvage part of the season," Hamilton said in an interview from
his home in Boulder, about 30 miles northwest of Denver. "I'm
still not giving up hope."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said an independent panel of
arbitrators had voted 2-1 to suspend Hamilton for receiving a
transfusion of another person's blood. Hamilton tested positive for
doping, which can increase endurance by providing additional
oxygen-carrying red blood cells, during the Spanish Vuelta last
Sept. 11.

Hamilton will keep his gold medal from the time trial at the
Athens Games, but forfeits all competitive results since the date
of the positive test. He can return to competition April 17, 2007.

"This is not just about me, this is about all athletes,"
Hamilton said. "Yesterday was a black day for all athletes,
especially athletes competing in non-unionized sports. I can
guarantee you this test would never have been approved in a
unionized sport."

USADA's arbitrators said it was the first case ever based on the
type of doping test used on Hamilton. It was designed to detect the
presence of someone else's red blood cells, which the arbitrators
said almost always indicates a transfusion.

During his arbitration hearing, Hamilton criticized the testing
method used by the Union Cycliste International, the sport's
international governing body.

Arbitrator Chris Campbell also expressed doubts about the
method. He said a peer-reviewed study of the test method -- and the
Swiss laboratory that used it -- failed to calculate the rate of
false positives. At the same time, he wrote, the study demonstrated
several ways false positive results could occur.

"The (test method) has not been validated in a manner
acceptable to the scientific community. It should not be used to
test athletes at this time," Campbell wrote. "The case against
Mr. Hamilton should be dismissed."

The majority arbitration decision said Hamilton's Sept. 11
positive test "has a very high probability of having (been) caused
by a blood transfusion," and an "extremely low" probability of
having been caused by a rare condition that could result in a
person having two different types of red blood cells.

Hamilton said he was shocked by the suspension.

"I had high hopes of racing as soon as next week, but obviously
that's not going to happen," he said. "My chances of racing in
this year's Tour de France are slim to none. That's what got me out
of bed every morning."

Campbell, the arbitrator, also said a lab test of a Hamilton
blood sample from the Athens Games a month before the Spanish race
was negative, but a group formed by the International Olympic
Committee later ruled the sample was positive. That case was
dropped after a backup blood sample was destroyed. Campbell also
said the Sept. 11 blood sample had a significantly lower indication
of doping than the sample taken during the Olympics.

Based on blood tests done in spring and summer 2004, UCI had
warned Hamilton and his Phonak team that he was under suspicion.

"UCI took the necessary action to protect the integrity of its
sport," said Terry Madden, USADA's chief executive officer. "This
decision shows that sport is committed to protecting the rights of
all clean athletes and that no athlete is above the rules."

Hamilton was considered a possible successor to six-time Tour de
France winner Lance Armstrong. The two were once teammates on the
U.S. Postal Service team. Hamilton finished fourth in the 2003 Tour
despite a broken collarbone.

Hamilton earned a six-figure salary with Phonak and has
endorsement deals with Nike, Oakley and other sponsors. The team
fired Hamilton in November, nearly a year before his contract was
set to expire. Hamilton has said he agreed to leave to improve
Phonak's chances of competing on this year's UCI Pro Tour.