Hamilton hailed as Tinoff member at end of ban

Olympic cycling champion Tyler Hamilton, whose two-year ban for blood doping ended in September, was unveiled as a member of the Tinkoff Credit Systems team in Rome on Tuesday (23 January).

Rome, Jan 24: Olympic cycling champion Tyler Hamilton, whose two-year ban for blood doping ended in September, was unveiled as a member of the Tinkoff Credit Systems team in Rome on Tuesday (23 January).

The Italy-based team, backed by Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov, does not have a ProTour licence, but hopes to compete in most major races, as well as this year's Giro d'Italia.

Its been a long road back to professional cycling for American Tyler Hamilton.

On Tuesday he was introduced at a ceremony at Jazz House in Rome as the team leader of Tinkoff Credit Systems, a new Russian-Italian UCI Professional Continential team.

The 2004 Olympic gold medallist has been reinstated to the sport, having served a two-year suspension for blood doping, which expired in September 2006.

Hamilton tested positive for a blood transfusion at the 2004 Tour of Spain and the individual Olympic time trial champion was fired by his team, Phonak, shortly thereafter.

In April 2005, Hamilton was sentenced by the United States Anti-Doping Agency to the maximum of two years for a first-time offence.

A month later, he appealed the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but, after an adjournment to allow Hamilton to gather additional evidence, the Court dismissed his appeal in February 2006.

Hamilton's defence claimed that the UCI-sanctioned test was insufficiently validated (and may therefore have returned a false positive result) and that some of the agencies involved had concealed documents that would have supported his case.

He also maintained that, even if a foreign population of cells was present in his blood, the cells were naturally present and not the result of a transfusion.

On Tuesday, though, Hamilton was eager to put all of that behind him and concentrate on what impact he will have on his new team.

"So for me, I'll.....at the beginning of the year it'll be more just showing my experience to the younger riders and then, as I gain some form, as I get some races into my legs, it will be more goals of winning races.": Tyler Hamilton.

While Hamilton is clearly eager to put his doping ban behind him, the issue has left him with a lot of resentment.

"There's no real finality to it. The best I can say is I'm going to just put it behind me. I still have a lot of anger about the whole situation. But, at the moment, there is really nothing I can do. Really, you know, the best thing I can do now is just to look forward and Tinkoff Credit Systems wants me to look forward and it's the best thing I can do.": Tyler Hamilton.

Hamilton has signed a two-year contract with Tinkoff Credit Systems and they will expect him to produce the goods.

"Yeah, my role is the team leader, is one of the team leaders. You know, obviously, if somebody else is stronger than me, I'm the first to raise my hand and want to help out. You know, I've done that before. I've been a 'domestique' before and I have no problem doing it again. But, ideally, you know, they brought me into the team to be a team leader and to win races and that's what I plan to do.": Tyler Hamilton.

Hamilton revealed that he also has plans to defend his Olympic title in Beijing next year.

"Yeah, the next Olympics is next year, you know, so that's the plan, that's my goal. I've been to the last two Olympics and I'd like to go back and try to win a gold medal again.": Tyler Hamilton.

Hamilton isn't the only cyclist with a tainted past to have been linked with the Tinkoff Credit Systems team.

Owner Oleg Tinkov has confirmed media reports that he had tried to sign former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, who was linked to an anti-doping investigation in Spain.

The German does not have a professional cycling licence after being sacked by the T-Mobile team in July.

Bureau Report

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