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Del Olmo cleared of EPO charge; further questions surround EPO test

The Union Cycliste International's (UCI) urine test for detecting EPO took a fresh hit Thursday when the Spanish cycling federation exonerated drug-tainted Tour de France rider Txema Del Olmo. Del Olmo, who rode for Basque Euskaltel squad, was the only rider excluded from this year's Tour after he tested positive for synthetic erythropoietin on the opening day's prologue. But Spanish cycling authorities said the threshold set, uniquely, by the Paris laboratory for the urine-based test had no legal status. Furthermore, the investigating committee said "sanctioning Del Olmo on

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By VeloNews Interactive wire services , Copyright AFP2001

The Union Cycliste International’s (UCI) urine test for detecting EPO took a fresh hit Thursday when the Spanish cycling federation exonerated drug-tainted Tour de France rider Txema Del Olmo.

Del Olmo, who rode for Basque Euskaltel squad, was the only rider excluded from this year’s Tour after he tested positive for synthetic erythropoietin on the opening day’s prologue.

But Spanish cycling authorities said the threshold set, uniquely, by the Paris laboratory for the urine-based test had no legal status.

Furthermore, the investigating committee said “sanctioning Del Olmo on this basis contravenes the principal of judicial security found in the Spanish constitution”.

The UCI immediately went on the defensive and said the governing body would refer the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“The Spanish Federation’s decision is based on the misinterpretation of our anti-doping regulations, as well as on a general and somewhat weak criticism of the method of detection developed by the laboratory (at Chatenay-Malabray).”

The UCI, as it was forced to do recently, reaffirmed its confidence in the French-pioneered urine test despite Del Olmo becoming the latest rider involved in controversy.

“We have full confidence in the method of detection being used,” the governing body reaffirmed in a statement released Thursday. “It has already proved its reliability and is an indispensable weapon in the fight against doping.”

Only two weeks ago former world champion Joan Llaneras and Massimo Strazzer, whose ‘A’ samples returned ‘non-negative’ findings, were exonerated by the UCI when their ‘B’ samples tested negative.

Llaneras subsequently declared he planned to take the UCI to court after he deemed his reputation had been soiled.

This latest dilemma for the UCI comes months after Danish sports authorities exonerated Danish rider Bo Hamburger of all blame after he had tested positive for EPO.

After an investigation by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Hamburger was let off the hook after the Danish Olympic Committee seized upon reported doubts about the reliability of the test.

Copyright AFP2001