By VeloNews Interactive
Recent moves to stamp out doping from the peloton claimed its first statistic Sunday, as Italian rider Fabiano Fontanelli was ruled out of the Tour of Flanders following a suspect blood test, according to a race official.
Fontanelli, who rides for Mercatone Uno, was excluded after a the “traditional” race-morning blood test showed a suspect hematocrit level. Because his red blood cell count exceeded 50 percent, Fontanelli was declared unfit to take part and excluded from racing for a minimum of 15 days. While the morning test has been used since 1997, Fontanelli will be the first pro rider now required to undergo a urine test, which can test for recent use of the drug, rather than just indicating its use. The results will be known three days after the test.
After a year of tests, the UCI certified a French-developed urine test for the red-blood-cell-boosting drug EPO on March 30.
At the Tour of Flanders 40 riders representing eight teams were subjected to blood tests (Mercatone Uno, Cofidis, Domo, Lotto, Rabobank, Fassa Bortolo, Credit Agricole, Mercury).
Fontanelli was the only rider whose hematocrit level was found to be in excess of 50 percent. If Fontanelli’s urine test shows positive, he could face suspension for up to two years under the UCI’s “repeat offender” provisions. Fontanelli tested positive in 1996 for testosterone.