By Andrew Hood
News that Danilo Di Luca tested positive for CERA during the recent Giro d’Italia was met with universal disdain among most at the Tour de France.
The Italian tested positive for the banned blood booster, CERA, en route to finishing second to Denis Menchov (Rabobank) at the Giro in May, the UCI confirmed.
If Di Luca’s B-sample is confirmed, he could be banned for two years and stripped of his second place and stage victories during the three-week Italian grand tour.
Di Luca strongly denied to Italian media that he took the third-generation of EPO and asked that a second round of analysis be conducted so he can demonstrate his innocence.
Skepticism ran deep, however, among many at the Tour.
Carlos Sastre – who finished fourth just off the podium and could bounce into third if Di Luca is eventually disqualified – seemed weary of doping scandals when asked about the news.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to keep reliving this,” Sastre said. “All I can say is that I am responsible for my own actions and decisions, but not for anyone else.”
Sastre has previously been bumped onto podiums at the Tour and Vuelta a España due to disqualifications among podium finishers.
Franco Pellizotti – the Liquigas rider who was third – tried to be more diplomatic.
“I’m disappointed, but we have to wait to see the result of the B sample before jumping to conclusions,” the Italian said. “Di Luca is a colleague and also a friend, but what hurts most is the bad image that this gives for cycling.”
If confirmed and Di Luca is stripped of second place, it will mark the fourth grand tour since 2005 that has seen a podium finisher later disqualified for doping offenses after the final-day photographs are taken.
Roberto Heras was stripped of his 2005 Vuelta victory after testing positive for EPO. Floyd Landis lost his 2006 Tour title despite a long legal battle and Bernard Kohl was stripped of his third place in 2008 for CERA.
Twitter was a lively source of comments from Tour riders.
“What a wanker!” Bradley Wiggins posted on his Twitter. “Unbelievable.”
“Thanks to Di Luca for all the hurt he put on us at the Giro,” wrote Mark Renshaw. “Good job, UCI, keep ‘em coming.”