Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Tour stage winners test positive

AP , PARIS

Stage winners Leonardo Piepoli of Italy and Stefan Schumacher of Germany tested positive for doping from blood samples taken during this year’s Tour de France.

The pair on Monday became the second and third riders to test positive for CERA, an advanced version of the blood booster EPO.

Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco has already admitted to CERA use.

Between them, the three riders won five stages during the July race — or about a quarter of the 21 stages at cycling’s premier race, which has struggled to maintain its credibility after being rocked by doping scandals for three years in a row.

The French Anti-Doping Agency has been retesting blood samples from the race in a bid to catch more cyclists they suspect may have used CERA. The original urine tests had cast a shadow of doubt over several riders but proved inconclusive.

This year’s Tour was run under the auspices of the French cycling federation, and it will be responsible for eventually revising the results of this year’s race after disciplinary procedures are completed against any riders found to have cheated, Tour organizers said on Monday.

Italian and French officials said Piepoli tested positive before and during the Tour, and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) said he has been summoned for a hearing on Friday. If found guilty of doping, he would face a two-year ban.

Piepoli was fired by Saunier Duval with teammate Ricco, four days after winning the punishing 10th stage through the Pyrenees. Piepoli was accused of violating the team’s “ethical code,” but Monday marked the first time officials confirmed he had tested positive.

The French Anti-Doping Agency and CONI said Piepoli failed tests for CERA on July 4, the day before the Tour, and July 15, the day after his stage victory. Pierre Bordry, head of the agency, said he notified CONI of Piepoli’s positive tests.

Ricco was banned for two years by CONI last week after admitting to doping during the Tour. Ricco won the sixth and ninth stages in spectacular fashion — the second victory coming with a long solo breakaway on one of the race’s toughest mountain stages.

Hans-Michael Holczer, the head of Schumacher’s Gerolsteiner team, said he received confirmation from the Tour’s director that the cyclist had “tested positive for CERA.”

He said he suspended the rider immediately.

Bordry said he could not immediately confirm the result.

Germany’s cycling federation said it would move to take action against Schumacher, who won both individual time trials at the Tour and held the race lead for two days. He finished 25th overall.

“The proceedings, with the aim of the highest possible ban, will be opened on Tuesday,” federation president Rudolf Scharping said.

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