Italian rider Danilo Di Luca was provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Wednesday after failing two drug tests for the banned-blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) CERA during the Tour of Italy.
The 33-year-old, who is not competing in the Tour de France, won two stages of the Giro and wore the leader’s pink jersey for eight days. He finished second overall just 41 seconds behind Russian Denis Menchov.
The UCI said that Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Tour of Italy, tested positive for (EPO) CERA on May 20 and May 28 following blood tests carried out by a French laboratory.
“These adverse findings were a direct result of a targeted test program conducted on Mr Di Luca using information from his biological passport’s blood profile, previous test results and his race schedule,” the UCI said in a statement.
“The provisional suspension of Mr Di Luca remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Italian Cycling Federation determines whether he has indeed committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules,” it said.
Di Luca insisted that he was clean.
“Would I be so stupid as to take Cera at the Tour of Italy one year after [Ricardo] Ricco, [Emanuele] Sella and [Davide] Rebellin were caught?” Di Luca said.
“I’ve fallen from the clouds, it’s really very strange, so much so that I couldn’t say how I feel,” he said.
“For me it’s important now to have the B samples tested in a different laboratory to the one in Paris because I’ve heard they use strange methods,” Di Luca said.
He was banned for three months in 2007 following a hearing of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for his ties to doctor Carlo Santuccione in the “Oil for Drugs” case.
In April last year, Di Luca, was acquitted by CONI following insufficient evidence after an abnormal control during his 2007 Tour of Italy win.