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August 02, 2005

Hamilton hearing set for Sept. 6

Boston.com | Bloody mess

Tyler Hamilton's hearing with the UCI has finally been definitively scheduled for September 6.

Hamilton will try to convince a panel that the blood doping test which implicated him at the Vuelta, and potentially at the 2004 Olympics (without the confirming 'B' sample, his guilt couldn't be definitively established) is badly flawed and should at the very least include a threshold value below which athletes would be cleared for competition.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 2, 2005 in Doping, Top Stories, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink


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Pro baseball player Raphael Palmiero tested positive for steroids today. Now he's looking down the barrel of an oh-so-stiff 10-day suspension. Good to see the fight against doping is going strong on both sides of the Atlantic.

Posted by: Cosmo at Aug 2, 2005 8:38:07 PM

Baseball's drug policy is a joke. Wow, 10 days off--sounds like a nice vacation to me. The other problem I have with baseball, is their players are terrible liars. Now cycling and cyclists--best sporting liars in the world, and for that I take my hat off. ;)

Go get'em Tyler :)

Posted by: Trée at Aug 3, 2005 3:57:57 PM

This particular test is not ready for primetime. There is no false positive rate established. And worst of all, those who declared him
"guilty" were the same people who came up with the test originally, KNEW whose sample it was, and most likely wanted a high-profile
"bust" to validate their new, unproven, procedure.

Another point was the testing procedure. One of the bedrocks of testing is that testers must not know whose blood is being analyzed.

This was not the case with Hamilton. In fact, the "positive" result from the blood sample he provided at the Olympics was deemed
negative at first. It wasn't until nearly a month later that the IOC formed an outside panel of experts who then ruled his Athens sample

Not only did the panel know whose blood it was analyzing, the group doing the testing was composed of people who had been paid to

develop the testing method - in other words, they had a vested interest in the process.

"The whole protocol under which the, quote-unquote, testing was done was not normal," said David Housman, a professor of molecular
biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "There's no protocol that says, if at first you don't think a sample is positive,
you can call up a whole bunch of people and have them decide that it is positive. That doesn't really count."

Rocky Mountain News article

Posted by: Dude at Aug 7, 2005 7:01:13 PM

Do you really think that Hamilton was framed? Look at his defense: an "invisible twin" was responsible for the 2nd set of blood cells?? This test has been used for years in the medical field; it's hardly brand new. And how about the Veulta tests and the previous warnings he'd received about fluctuating test results?

Posted by: C.S. Froning at Aug 10, 2005 11:15:35 AM

You don't need a defense if the test lacks scientific rigor. In this case, the test is simply unreliable, and the process completely violates the accepted protocol for testing -- blinded analysis by impartial third parties. When they pull shenanigans like this, THEIR credibility is shot.

Not to mention, the test procedure IS new -- hence the "invention" and "inventor" cited. It was created after analyzing only 48 samples. That's not what we consider a representative sample size for human beings.

Additionally, how could he receive "previous warnings" since the test was only instituted at the Olympics? And what ARE fluctuating test results? Are you implying he was testing positive, negative, positive, negative, prior to the Olympics, where the test was used for the first time?

Posted by: freznetic at Aug 10, 2005 12:28:21 PM

Hamilton and Phonak received warnings from the UCI that Hamilton's blood hemocrit and reticulocyte index were fluctuating in May and June of last year. That is, based on the old tests, Hamilton's hemocrit level was at 49.7% at the Tour de Romandie, where 50% is the limit, despite the fact that his immature red blood cell count had been abnormally low the month before, at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. His body was somehow making red blood cells out of thin air, apparently. This, combined with the fact that the other cyclist to fail the test at the Tour of Spain was Hamilton's teammate (perhaps Phonak selects for invisible twins), provides substantial circumstantial evidence to back up the observed test results.

Flow cytometry as the basis of measuring blood composition is new to cycling, but has been used for years in medical procedures. The test results at the Olympics do fail acceptable testing procedure, which is why Hamilton still has his medal. But what about the positive results at the Tour of Spain?

Posted by: C.S. Froning at Aug 12, 2005 10:37:21 AM

What about the Tour of Spain? It's the same crew, same testers, same flawed test methodology when you already know they convened a panel to crucify him after the Olympics when their own test did not. They have demonstrated that their whole procedure for this new process is unreliable and that they have ulterior motives. It's kind of like someone accuses you of a crime, is found to be unreliable and is discovered to have a personal vendetta against you, and then he accuses you of the same crime again. Why should anyone believe him? Moreover, is that a high enough standard of evidence to end someone's career?

If they are going to catch "cheaters", then THEY need to play by the rules very, very carefully. They need to be held to a higher standard if we are going to take their word that someone is dishonest.

Since their test is fatally flawed, outside experts can point out numerous reasons WHY it's unreliable, and they have demonstrated that they are NOT impartial and do NOT conduct blinded studies, we certainly cannot trust THEM.

As for fluctuating hematocrit levels, that was DURING the Tour of Romandie, and NUMEROUS teams complained to the UCI in 2004 about the inaccuracy of the UCI's test results. These riders get tested by their team doctors and were getting different numbers from the UCI results. Not to mention, some riders can get cleared for >50% hematocrit levels if they can show medical evidence that they are naturally higher. What this says is that the test is not definitive by any means, and it can fluctuate due to illness, fatigue, dehydration, and other factors, not to mention experimental error or lab mistakes.

What is the false positive rate for ANY test, and what are the odds that in thousands of tests per year, there aren't any mistakes? You are pretty much *guaranteed* to hit false positives as well as false negatives.

Since Phonie #4 just got named, one might speculate that either all the cheaters in the pro peleton ended up at Phonak, or perhaps someone has it out for them.

When you see them convening panels to proclaim someone's guilt despite their test not doing so, it is obvious that they DO have it out for someone, if for no other reason than to show they are doing "something" to catch the "cheaters".

Posted by: freznetic at Aug 22, 2005 2:47:06 AM

Here are his argumenrts (and the counter arguments) as best that I understand them:

(1) the technology used to identify the proteins on the surface of blood cells (flow cytometry) is unreliable.

Major points include the reliability lab-to-lab testing and that there has been no acknowledgement of the "false alarm rate" whereby good samples are found to be bad by the test equipment.

The counter-point is that it is statistically impossible that 3 separate tests found him positive due to minor lab-to-lab differences. Also, if the false alarm rate was unexpectantly high, other riders would be testing positive also. However, thus far, only Tyler and one other rider from his same team have tested positive. The other rider was ultimately found guilty (without appeal), thereby providing credibility to the test.

(2) the protocol used to determine that his sample at the Olympics was positive was flawed

The major point here is that his "A" sample was first found negative, but was then found positive after being re-reviewed when the UCI (organization who runs professional racing in Europe) asked the IOC/WADA (Int'l Olympic Committee/World Anti-Doping Agency. WADA does all of the athlete drug testing for the IOC) to review it again based on their findings of a positive test at the Tour of Spain a few weeks earlier. The findings of this "re-review" should not be considered or admissible according to Tyler because it was first found negative and that finding should stand as the official finding.

The counter-point is that the original negative was a false negative and that the postive finding was the techinically correct one. Initially erring on the side of being non-guilty can't be used to question the validity of the test.

(3) that Tyler has a natural condition where there are multiple types of blood proteins on the surface of his blood cells making him appear to have other people's blood in him. This is called a chimera condition.

The major point here is that this is a naturally occuring condition that explains the test results without the necessity of blood doping.

The counter-point is that there is absolutely no data to support this theory and Tyler did not provide any data in his previous hearing to this effect. Again, if this was a common condition, other riders would have also tested positive. No rigorous testing has ever been done to determine whether that a chimera condition exists in human blood or what effect it would have on the blood doping test.

Overall, the nail in the coffin is three independent positive tests at two different venues. It will be nearly impossible for TH to beat the rap on appeal. He will be found guilty thus ending his career.

Posted by: TimJ at Sep 7, 2005 8:29:40 PM

so it's now 16th sept and I can't find anything about this hearing that supposedly took place on the 6th. What happened?

Posted by: matt at Sep 16, 2005 7:13:20 PM

From a press release at http://www.tylerhamilton.com:

Lausanne, 12 September 2005: The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) commenced the hearing of the case CAS 2005/A/884 Hamilton v/United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) on 6 September 2005 in Denver (United States) and the parties presented evidence through 8 September 2005. The arbitration was then adjourned with the agreement that it would be resumed at a later date for the presentation of additional evidence and closing arguments. The date and location of the second hearing have not been fixed yet.

The parties have agreed that they would not make any public statements concerning this matter until the final decision of CAS.

Posted by: Freddy at Sep 17, 2005 6:21:43 PM