PONTE DI LEGNO, Italy, May 24, 2013 (AFP) – Italian cyclist Danilo Di Luca,
currently competing at the 96th Giro d’Italia, has been “provisionally
suspended” after testing positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test before
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.
Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, 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
Di Luca was without a contract at the start of the season but managed to
sign for the second division team Vini Fantini, who were 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 into the team in time for the May 4 start in Naples. Although he
has failed to win a stage or challenge for overall honors, 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, who now has a 4min 02sec over his
closest rival, Australian Cadel Evans, with two stages to race. The Italian
sits in 26th place overall at just over 33min behind Nibali.
A former race winner, in 2007, Di Luca 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.
Di Luca also returned abnormal results from test samples at the 2007
edition of the race, which he won.
It 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
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 a
message on his twitter feed.
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 fucking stupid??’.”
Friday’s 19th stage, the first of two consecutive days in the mountains,
was cancelled by organizers because of heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures on
a revised route.
Changes were also made to Saturday’s 20th stage, the last in the mountains,
due to the conditions.