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FOUGRES, France (AFP) — Italian rider Luca Paolini has failed a doping test at the Tour de France, his Katusha team said Friday.
The 38-year-old tested positive for cocaine, which is not banned out of competition but is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances in competition.
Katusha spokesman Philippe Mertens said the team had found out Friday evening that Paolini had tested positive on Tuesday, after stage 4. He finished 172nd on that stage, while Jacopo Guarnieri was Katusha’s top finisher in seventh.
Paolini has been removed from the Tour by his Russian team.
“Paolini tested positive for cocaine on July 7,” Maertens told AFP by telephone. “The team decided to remove him from the Tour. We were told at the beginning of the evening [about the result].
“We’re very surprised because cocaine is not a substance that improves performance.”
Katusha then released an official written statement confirming the suspension: “Team Katusha has been informed tonight by the UCI that Italian rider Luca Paolini has been notified of an Adverse Analytical Finding. The presence of cocaine has been detected in a sample collected on July 7th.
“According to the UCI Regulations the rider has been provisionally suspended with immediate effect. In application of the Team policy the rider has been immediately withdrawn from the Tour de France.
“Bearing in mind the anti-doping regulations, the team will wait until the analysis of the B sample has been conducted before taking any further action or making any further comment.”
The UCI also confirmed the news. “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that it has notified Italian rider Luca Paolini of an Adverse Analytical Finding of Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine metabolite) in a sample collected in the scope of an in-competition control on 7 July 2015 during the Tour de France,” a UCI press release read.
“The rider has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample.
“In accordance with UCI Anti-doping Rules, the rider has been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the affair.”
Paolini won the prestigious cobbled classic race Gent-Wevelgem in April, perhaps the best result of his career and coming at the age of 38. He won a stage at the Vuelta a España in 2006 and another at the Giro d’Italia in 2013. He also won a couple of semi-classic one-day races, Brabantse Pijl in 2004 and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2013.
Katusha has a history of failed anti-doping tests. Christian Pfannberger and Antonio Colom tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO in 2009.
Alexandr Kolobnev tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide in 2011, while a year later, Denis Galimzyanov was found to have taken EPO.
The last rider to test positive for doping during the Tour, the most prestigious race in cycling, was Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck on July 17, 2012.
He was banned for one year after low levels of the diuretic Xipamide were found in his system.