Phonak turns to court in bid to regain licence
Swiss cycling team Phonak has turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a bid to regain its racing licence, which it lost following a series of doping scandals.
Phonak said on Wednesday that it was seeking to overturn a decision by the International Cycling Union (UCI), which stripped the team of the right to participate in next year’s ProTour circuit.
The team had been expected to take the issue to court after the UCI’s licences commission in November upheld an earlier decision to deny Phonak a licence following three positive doping tests involving its cyclists.
At the time, UCI said the team had failed to “provide guarantees in respect of sporting ethics as they apply to doping”. It added that granting Phonak a licence would “harm the image of cycling as a sport”.
Phonak's stable of riders included Olympic time-trial champion Tyler Hamilton of the United States, who Phonak sacked shortly after UCI's licence hearing.
Phonak and Hamilton have denied claims of doping, which emerged after a drug test at the Athens Olympics showed evidence that Hamilton had been given a blood transfusion.
That case was dropped after his back-up sample was frozen, leaving too few red blood cells to analyse.
Hamilton tested positive again at the Tour of Spain in September, with both samples confirming the result. He and Phonak officials have questioned the reliability of the testing system for blood doping, which boosts endurance by raising the level of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Besides the Hamilton case, Phonak has been hit by doping allegations involving two other riders, Spain's Santi Perez and Switzerland's Oscar Camenzind.
In October, UCI notified Perez that he had tested positive for an alleged blood transfusion a month earlier. Perez, whose contract with Phonak runs out at the end of the year, has denied any wrongdoing.
Camenzind, a former road-cycling world champion, has been banned for two years. He tested positive for the endurance-boosting drug EPO in July and immediately withdrew from the Olympics. He too was sacked by Phonak and announced his retirement.
The UCI refusal was a bitter blow for Phonak, Switzerland's only top-level cycling team. The move bars the team from competing in all major events next year on UCI's Pro Tour, which includes the Tour de France.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, may take several months to rule on the Phonak case.
Whatever the outcome of the appeal, Phonak said it hoped to enter next year's Tour de France and other high-profile races as a wild card - a category open to teams without a ProTour licence.
swissinfo with agencies
Phonak is Switzerland's only professional cycling team.
It was denied a place on next year's ProTour after losing an appeal to the International Cycling Union over doping scandals.
Three of its cyclists, including Tyler Hamilton, tested positive for doping.
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