The head of the Olympic doping lab in Athens defended its handling of Tyler Hamilton's drug test, and denied human error was to blame for the deterioration of his blood specimen.

"We followed exactly our procedures," lab director Costas Georgakopoulos told the Associated Press in a phone interview yesterday. "We worked according to our specifications and our plans. "There was absolutely no human error. There was absolutely no problem in the workload of the lab."

The International Olympic Committee dropped its investigation Thursday into a test that indicated Hamilton -- gold medalist in the cycling time-trial race -- used a blood transfusion to boost his endurance.

While Hamilton's initial blood sample tested positive, the backup specimen -- or B sample -- couldn't be analyzed because there weren't enough red blood cells left, the IOC said.

Hamilton will keep his gold medal because an athlete is considered guilty of doping only when both samples come back positive.

IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said the lab erred by freezing Hamilton's second sample instead of refrigerating it. As a result, the blood cells disintegrated.

Ljungqvist called it a case of "human error" and attributed the mistake in part to the drug lab's "heavy workload" during the Aug. 13-29 Games.

Georgakopoulos said the lab did nothing wrong and that the staff followed guidelines agreed on with the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Athens Organizing Committee. He said the lab had prepared months in advance for new tests that were introduced in Athens for blood doping and human growth hormone.

"According to our plans, as agreed with the IOC and WADA, we had to put the blood in the freezer," he said. "This is crystal clear. We are obliged to follow the guidelines. Even today, we would repeat exactly the same action."

-- From News Services