Saturday, August 01, 2009

Astarloza suspended for EPO

Mikel Astarloza, a rider for the Spanish based Eustalkel-Euskadi team has been provisionally suspended for using banned substances by the European Cycling Union (UCI).

Astarloza, 29, won stage 16 in this year's Tour de France in a one person breakaway over the alps into Bourg Saint Maurice. He came in 11th overall in the general classification.

The drug test was taken June 26, during a period called "out of competition," a surprise, random test though he was not competing at the time. The test was conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and analyzed in Madrid. UCI received the results on Thursday.

His team says he is innocent and and will wait for the results of his "B" sample before taking any action, said media sources. The "B" sample is the second sample taken in every test, and if it does not confirm the positive findings of the "A" sample, it could throw into doubt the accuracy of the first.

"The decision to provisionally suspend Mr Astarloza was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Madrid indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of Recombinant EPO [erythropoietin] in a urine sample collected from him at an out-of-competition test on 26 June 2009," said the UCI yesterday in a press release.

EPO is a commonly used drug for cancer patients, and is meant to increase the number of red blood cells in the body to fight the disease. For the same reason, it can greatly enhance a cyclist's performance, increasing the body's ability to pump oxygen and endure long periods of sustained activity.

The provisional suspension will remain until a hearing panel convened by the Spanish Cycling Federation determines whether Mr Astarloza has committed an anti-doping rule violation.

Any wins after the time of the test, including the one at the Tour, can be disqualified if the federation finds him guilty.

Astarloza is the second rider from Spain's Euskaltel-Euskadi team to return a positive doping control in June. Iñigo Landaluze was suspended in July after twice testing positive for EPO CERA.

France's top anti-doping organization, the AFLD, announced last week that they will be re-testing samples from 15 of the top 20 finishers from last year's race for CERA, an advanced type of EPO.

Italian Riccardo Riccò was found positive for the CERA during the Tour de France this year with a test analyzing his urine.

Since blood tests are deemed more accurate, the AFLD has requested blood samples from the Lausanne laboratory which performed testing during the Tour for several riders who showed 'suspicious' blood values in pre-competition screens, they said.

Among them is the Italian Leonardo Piepoli, who was sacked from his team after Riccò's positive, for "violations of the team's ethical code".

Italian rider Danilo Di Luca was provisionally suspended by the UCI on July 22 after failing two drug tests for EPO CERA during the Tour of Italy.

Although he was not competing in the Tour this year, the 33-year-old Liquigas leader 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 the banned-blood booster (EPO) CERA on May 20 and May 28 following blood tests carried out by a French laboratory.

1 comment:

Luca Rossi said...

The news this week confirms what we already knew. Doping controls and punitive competition bans simply do not work. They only push doping further and further to the edge of the envelope where athletes are willing to put untested, unsafe drugs into their bodies. Further, the level playing field that doping supposedly tips in the users’ direction, never existed in the first place given the advantages afforded those with money or rich sponsors or both (i.e., better training, better coaching, better equipment.)

Wouldn’t it be better if instead of worrying about who doped in the past and spending a ton of money trying to catch athletes using performances enhancing drugs if the focus where on reducing the harm associated with doping? Legalize the use of performance enhancing drugs and bring it under medical supervision so that the athletes, who are going to use them anyway, are safer. The same four guys are going to have a shot at winning the Tour de France with or without the drugs, so what impact are tests and competition bans having anyway? The answer would be none.

Luca Rossi