Testing method questioned

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Tyler Hamilton's cycling team is challenging the method of a drug test that nearly cost him his Olympic gold medal and could result in a two-year ban for the U.S. rider.

An initial test at the Athens Games suggested he had received an
endurance-boosting blood transfusion. But the case was dropped after his backup sample was mistakenly frozen, leaving too few red blood cells to analyze.

While Hamilton got to keep his time-trial gold medal, he now faces a possible ban because of a positive test two weeks after the Olympics. Hamilton rides for the Swiss team Phonak, and both samples from the Spanish Vuelta in September came back positive for blood doping. Hamilton insists he is innocent and has vowed to clear his name.

The Olympic test was administered by the International Olympic
Committee while the Spanish Vuelta test was conducted by race organizers, but the method used in both cases was the same.

Phonak team manager Urs Freuler told The Associated Press the team has appointed five experts to analyze Hamilton's two positive samples. He said the IOC failed to supply requested documents.

"What we want is just the truth," Freuler said. "Is it so, or is it not so?"

The IOC said it had no information about a request from Phonak but defended the testing system.

"There is no reason to question the validity of the testing method," said IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau, adding the test was approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Russian Olympic Committee has filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to strip Hamilton of his Olympic gold medal and give it to Vyacheslav Ekimov.

A second Phonak rider, Spain's Santi Perez, was notified by the sport's governing body last week that he tested positive for an alleged blood transfusion last month.