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Saturday 23 August 2014

Tyler Hamilton tells court he was once reinfused with own blood by cyclist with no medical training

Published 20/02/2013 | 11:46

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Compatriots Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton (yellow jersey) pictured in June, 2000

Disgraced Olympic gold medallist Tyler Hamilton gave an extraordinary account yesterday of how he was reinfused with his own blood by a former cyclist who had no medical training.

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The self-confessed drug cheat was giving evidence via video link from Washington to a Madrid court during the trial of blood doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and four others, who are facing two years in jail if convicted of unsafe public health practices by administering banned substances and blood transfusions to a spectrum of cyclists and other sportsmen as part of the Operation Puerto scandal.

Hamilton’s testimony is seen as critical to the prosecution case against Fuentes.

The court was told that a Team CSC attache, the former mountain bike rider Alberto Leon who took his own life two years ago, performed the potentially life-threatening transfusion in 2002 when the usual blood doctor, Fuentes, was unavailable.

Hamilton said he worked with Fuentes for three years after meeting the doctor in 2002 when he joined Team CSC.

He claimed he was introduced to Fuentes by the former Tour de France winner and then CSC director Bjarne Riis, an allegation Riis has previously denied.

The American rider said he had previous doping history before joining CSC, including a blood transfusion in 2000 when he was a team-mate of Lance Armstrong at the US Postal team.

Hamilton. who was stripped of his 2004 gold medal, told the court that Fuentes provided him with a cocktail of different drugs and a colour-coded calendar explaining what drugs to take and when.

As detailed by testimony from other cyclists, Fuentes’ code for the red blood cell booster erythropoietin (EPO) was a circle, but Hamilton explained the colour of the circle represented the strength of the EPO. He said Fuentes provided him with EPO, testosterone and growth hormone. He tried insulin once but did not like its side effects which made him sweat profusely with a rapid heart beat.

Fuentes was working with six or seven other cyclists, claimed Hamilton, and he paid the doctor a substantial amount of money for his services, which included reinfusing his blood “about 15 times” in apartments in Madrid and Monaco and in “many, many hotel rooms”.

“I paid Fuentes about €25,000-€30,000 [£22,000-£26,000] a year, products not included,” said Hamilton. “In 2004, I paid him €50,000 [£44,000] for his new method, Siberia [which involved freezing the blood].”

A clue that a rider was being blood doped or on EPO was if they were breathing through their nose on tough climbs, he revealed.

Hamilton served a two-year suspension when drug testers detected somebody else’s blood in his sample soon after he won the 2004 Olympic road time-trial race, even though he had his own code of “4142” written on the blood bag.

When it was put to Hamilton, who was then riding for the Phonak team, that the test result showed positive because the wrong bag had been reinfused, Hamilton said: “Either that, or my blood bag was tampered with, or the test didn’t work - I don’t have the answer”.

A team-mate of Hamilton at the time, Santi Pérez, was also suspended for two years in 2004 after failing a test for a homologous blood transfusion during the Vuelta España. Hamilton confirmed that Pérez was a client of Fuentes. He also named other Phonak riders Alvaro Pino, Oscar Sevilla and Enrique Gutierrez as travelling to Madrid to see Fuentes.

That infusion of blood in 2004 was performed by a German doctor with the Phonak team, said Hamilton, and he had picked up the blood from an unidentified courier. Hamilton said he rememberd the bag of blood was cold.

Hamilton, now 41, also spoke about a bad reaction to one particular reinfusion during a rest day in the 2004 Tour de France which left him feverish and passing black urine.

At the end of hs testimony the judge asked if he had anything else to add. Hamilton said: “yeah, sorry for breaking the rules”.

Star witness Alberto Contador, who was to have appeared for the doctor on Friday, has been stood down. Fuentes’ lawyers have told the judge, Julia Santamaria, that they no longer require his testimony.

Another team-mate of Contador when he was riding for Liberty Seguros, Angel Vicioso, is due to appear this Friday but court officials have been unable to find him.

Vicioso, now riding for the Katusha team, had already produced a medical certificate that excused him from the trial last week.

By Jacquelin Magnay, Telegraph.co.uk

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