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Belgian team Lotto-Soudal has sent home two staffers, as well as their respective roommates, from the 2020 Tour de France after the staffers returned ‘non-negative’ results from a PCR test for COVID-19.
The team revealed the news in a release on Thursday afternoon.
“Despite all efforts made by all staff and riders in the weeks prior to the Tour de France, two tests did not give the desired negative result,” the team said.
The team said that both results came from tests performed on Wednesday, August 26. This was the second round of testing for the Belgian team, which had undergone the mandatory tests six days prior to the race.
For the August 26 tests, returned one positive result and, according to the team, “one suspicious result.”
Thus, the team sent the staffers who returned these results home. The team also sent home additional staffers who were sharing rooms with the two in question.
“For this reason, in order to protect the health of the team and the race, these two staff people will not be allowed to continue,” the team said. “As a safety measure, and to respect the Covid-19 Measures Tour de France Protocol, their risk contacts will leave the race as well.”
Whether or not this news impacts the Belgian squad’s participation in the Tour de France has yet to be seen. Last week, the race circulated its rules and regulations for COVID-19 safety, and the document stated that teams would be removed from the race if they recorded two or more positive COVID-19 tests for riders or staff.
Additional reports this week hinted that the Tour was set to relax the rule, but no official ruling had been made by press time.
Thursday’s revelation could put Lotto-Soudal’s participation in jeopardy, however race organizer ASO will likely be the ones to decide whether or not the Belgian team is allowed into the event.
The Belgian team enters the race with major ambitions. In 2019 it won four stages: three with sprinter Caleb Ewan and one from breakaway rider Thomas De Gendt. Both riders have returned in 2020, alongside Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb.