PONTE DI LEGNO, Italy (AFP) — Italian cyclist Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), currently competing at the 96th Giro d’Italia, has been “provisionally suspended” after testing positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test before the race.
Di Luca, who has already served a ban for failing a doping test at the Giro and has been embroiled in other doping affairs, tested positive for the banned blood booster at the end of April.
The UCI, cycling’s international governing body, said it had “provisionally suspended” the rider, who risks a heavy sanction if found guilty.
“The decision to provisionally suspend this rider was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Cologne indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of EPO in a urine sample collected from him in an out-of-competition test on 29 April 2013,” the UCI said.
“The provisional suspension of Mr. Danilo Di Luca remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Italian Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.”
Di Luca was without a contract at the start of the season but managed to sign for the second division team Vini Fantini, which was assured a place in the three-week race.
Team boss Angelo Citracca indicated upon hearing the news the team would sack the rider if a B sample confirms the first result.
“This result reflects upon the whole team,” said Citracca.
Despite having only two days of racing in his legs, the 37-year-old Di Luca was called to the team in time for the May 4 start in Naples. Although he has failed to win a stage or challenge in the GC, Di Luca has often been seen on the attack.
Di Luca finished 10th in Thursday’s uphill time trial behind stage winner and overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who now has a 4:02 over his closest rival, Australian Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), with two stages to race. The Italian is 26th, 33:33 behind Nibali.
Di Luca, who won the 2007 Giro, has a doping past. He returned two positive doping tests from samples taken during the 2009 edition of the race, which he finished as runner-up behind Russian Denis Menchov.
Di Luca denied doping at that time but finally confessed and earned a more lenient sanction. Instead of a two-year ban, he was suspended for 15 months. He also lost his 2007 Giro result.
Di Luca also had abnormal results from test samples at the 2007 Giro. That prompted a prosecutor to demand a two-year ban, but the cyclist was cleared at the 11th hour by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) due to a lack of evidence.
Disgraced American Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France crowns among other victories due to doping, reacted to the news via Twitter.
The American said: “Knowing I have 0 cred on the doping issue – I still can’t help but think, ‘really Di Luca? Are you that f—ing stupid??’.”
Friday’s 19th stage, the first of two consecutive days in the mountains, was canceled by organizers because of heavy snow on a revised route.
Changes were also made to Saturday’s 20th stage, the last in the mountains, due to the conditions.