The UCI on Tuesday announced that it had informed Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) of an Adverse Analytical Finding for the diuretic Xipamide in a sample taken on July 14.
The positive test came from the WADA-accredited lab in Châtenay-Malabry. Xipamide is banned for its use as a masking agent for other drugs.
Schleck has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample. Schleck, who finished third at the Tour last year, currently sits 12th overall, 9:45 down on race leader Bradley Wiggins.
“The UCI Anti-Doping Rules do not provide for a provisional suspension given the nature of the substance, which is a specified substance,” read the UCI’s release.
“However, the UCI is confident that his team will take the necessary steps to enable the Tour de France to continue in serenity and to ensure that their rider has the opportunity to properly prepare his defense in particular within the legal timeline, which allows four days for him to have his B sample analyzed.
“Under the World Anti-Doping Code and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI is unable to provide any additional information at this time.”
RadioShack-Nissan management confirmed to AFP that Schleck would leave the Tour. RadioShack spokesman Philippe Maertens told AFP that, “Schleck has left the race.”
He added the team would soon be issuing a statement.
Xipamide is a prescription-only, orally administered diuretic drug. It is also knows as Diurexan, the brand name under which it may be found in a pharmacy. A doctor typically prescribes the drug, in tablet form, to a patient dealing with high blood pressure. In these cases, high blood pressure is caused not by arterial fat buildup, but by high sodium levels in the blood. Since water follows solutes (solid matter), high levels of sodium in the blood will cause increased water retention in the bloodstream as well, putting excess strain on the heart as it tries to move the extra fluid.
Diuretics are typically used in sport as masking agents. Although that term is a misnomer, as diuretics don’t actually mask anything, they conceal the presence of a drug by helping to flush it from the body through increased urination. Using this effect, an athlete could use Xipamide to help remove traces of banned substances prior to a doping control.
Alexandr Kolobnev tested positive for another, more common diuretic, Hydrochlorothiazide, in the 2011 Tour de France. In February, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Kolobnev, ruling that Kolobnev’s positive test for the diuretic after the fifth stage was “justified by medical reasons totally unrelated to sport performance.” Kolobnev was able to prove to CAS that he bought an over-the-counter medication in Russia two weeks before the race, and had it with him in France.
“The CAS panel found that Kolobnev has been suffering from varix dilatation, a chronic vascular disease, for 15 years,” the court said in a statement.
Schleck has a chance of proving his innocence because Xipamide falls into a special category of substances under the World-Anti Doping Code called “Specified Substances.”
The Code states that when an “athlete can establish that the use of such a specified substance was not intended to enhance sport performance, the period of ineligibility… shall be replaced with the following.”
For a first violation athletes face anything from “a reprimand” or, at most, a “one year’s ineligiblity.”
A second violation would incur “two years ineligibility”, in other words a two-year ban, while a third violation would incur a “lifetime ban.”
Agence France Presse, Neal Rogers and Ari Baquet contributed to this report.