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By Andrew Hood
The 2009 Tour de France isn’t scandal-free anymore.
Mikel Astarloza – the Basque climber from the Euskaltel-Euskadi team who won stage 16 in this year’s Tour – has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for EPO, the UCI reported Friday.
The news comes as a blow to the Tour, which seemed to be leaving three years of scandal in the rear-view mirror with what appeared to be a dope-free Tour in 2009.
Astarloza, who was set to start the Clásica San Sebastián in his native Basque Country in northern Spain on Saturday, returned an “adverse analytical finding” for recombinant EPO in a urine sample collected in an out-of-competition control on June 26, just prior to the start of the 2009 Tour.
The lab report was delivered Thursday to the UCI by the accredited laboratory in Madrid, which conducted the controls. The UCI released the information to the media about 5 p.m. European time.
Under UCI rules, Astarloza has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B-sample.
Astarloza could receive a ban of up to two years if he is issued a sanction by the Spanish cycling federation.
There was no immediate response from Astarloza or his Euskaltal-Euskadi team.
Check back later to VeloNews.com for more information on this breaking story.