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Suspended rider Danilo Di Luca said Wednesday that he may have been the victim of a conspiracy after twice testing positive for banned blood booster CERA during this year’s Giro d’Italia.
Di Luca purportedly finished second in the Italian tour, which he won in 2007, but subsequently returned positive tests for the third-generation of EPO, called a Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator (CERA), on both May 22 and 28.
Di Luca won two stages during the Giro and held the leader’s pink jersey for eight days before eventually losing to Rabobank’s Denis Menchov by just 41 seconds.
“I just can’t explain the two positive tests at the Giro. I’m not ruling out a conspiracy, but before I can confirm it I have to be sure,” Di Luca said during his meeting with the Italian Olympic Committee’s (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor.
The 33-year-old Di Luca was given a one-month extension to his hearing after arguing that he didn’t have all the information he needed to mount a proper defense. He was temporarily suspended on July 22 after the results of his tests were published.
“I said previously that if my B samples confirmed the positive tests I would retire from cycling but now I’ve changed my mind and I am certain I will ride again in the Giro d’Italia,” added Di Luca.
“My lawyers and I have some serious doubts about the method used in the doping tests which have produced positive results,” he said. “These methods have already given false positives and I think that’s the case with me.
“I would have to be completely stupid to have used CERA, especially during the Giro,” said Di Luca. “It stays in the blood and urine for a month. Why would I do that?”
The current matter is not the first doping controversy Di Luca has found himself involved in.
During his winning Giro in 2007, he produced an abnormal dope test and anti-doping prosecutors in Italy requested a two-year ban but he was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Di Luca did, however, serve a three month ban last year for his involvement in the ‘oil for drugs’ scandal of 2004 and that could mean that any subsequent suspension would be from eight years to life.