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Hamilton accepts 8-year ban

Olympic champion Tyler Hamilton received an 8-year ban from cycling on Tuesday, all but ending his drug-tainted career after he admitted to taking a steroid.

The penalty handed down by the US Anti-Doping Agency came two months after Hamilton acknowledged taking an herbal product to combat depression, knowing it included a steroid.

"There's nothing to fight about," Hamilton said in April.

This was Hamilton's second anti-doping violation. At age 38, an 8-year ban for Hamilton is effectively a lifetime ban, said Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA.

It is "an assurance that he is penalized for what would have been the remainder of his competitive cycling career," Tygart said.

It brings to an end a career that included a win at the 2004 Olympics that was overshadowed by a blood doping scandal. The victory was followed shortly by a positive doping test, but Hamilton retained the gold medal because the backup 'B' sample could not be positively tested.

A month later, however, he tested positive again, and served a two-year suspension that ended early in 2007.

He long denied blood doping, though on the latest positive test, he denied nothing. "I knew it was banned," Hamilton said.

Some of his advisers told him to fight the latest positive but he decided against it, instead deciding to focus on battling his depression. Hamilton said going through a divorce and his mother's breast cancer diagnosis made things worse in recent months.

"The eight-year suspension is unfortunate and disheartening," Hamilton said in a statement on Tuesday.

"At this time, however, my focus remains on my mother, my family, battling my depression and getting better. This has been an extremely difficult and trying period, but I am determined to get through it."

Elsewhere, Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov was banned from next month's Tour de France.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said the 35-year-old Vinokourov should have been banned for two years after being caught blood doping during the 2007 Tour.

The Kazakhstan cycling federation banned Vinokourov for only one year, but cycling's governing body appealed to CAS.

Rule violation

"Mr. Vinokurov committed an anti-doping rule violation," CAS said in a statement. "(He) is declared ineligible for a period of two years."

CAS said Vinokourov can compete again from July 24. The 2009 Tour starts on July 4.

Vinokourov and his Astana teammates were forced out of the 2007 Tour when he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion after winning the 13th stage.

He retired last year but then indicated he would race again. Astana boss Johan Bruyneel said in December that the team would welcome Vinokourov back when his doping ban ends.

Even without Vinokourov, Astana has a strong squad that includes 2007 Tour champion Alberto Contador and seven-time winner Lance Armstrong.



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