By Agence France Presse
German cyclist Stefan Schumacher, a double stage winner at this year’s Tour de France, has tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), according to L’Equipe website on Monday.
Gerolsteiner rider Schumacher is the second rider named Monday to be caught using a new generation of EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator) at this year’s race.
Earlier Monday the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) announced that Leonardo Piepoli, who won the race’s 10th stage to Hautacam in the Pyrenees, tested for CERA.
Piepoli, a specialist climber, was a key helper of former Saunier Duval teammate Riccardo Riccò, who last week was banned for 20 months after testing positive for CERA at the Tour, where he won two stages.
Schumacher caused a minor sensation at this year’s race when he won both time trials, both times leaving Switzerland’s two-time world champion Fabian Cancellara in his wake.
According to L’Equipe, Schumacher’s urine samples from the Tour were suspect although it took a recently-pioneered blood test for CERA to prove his guilt.
One test was carried out at a laboratory in Lausanne, the other at the laboratory used by France’s national anti-doping agency.
The German recently left the Gerolsteiner team to sign with Belgian outfit Quick Step.
Gerolsteiner team boss Hans-Michael Holczer revealed the news about Schumacher to German sports agency SID, confirming earlier reports on the Web site of sports newspaper L’Equipe.
Holczer told SID: “The director of the Tour, Christian Prudhomme, has confirmed it and I have no doubt that it (Schumacher’s positive test) is true.”
Holczer, who said legal action would be taken against Schumacher, added: “We have been fooled by this man.”
Schumacher himself told SID: “This is the first time I have heard of all this. All I can say is that I have not undertaken doping. This is nonsense.”
Three riders from this year’s Tour de France have now tested positive for CERA; Riccò, Piepoli and Schumacher.
If reports are confirmed, Schumacher will find himself in a second drugs scandal inside a year.
He was allowed to race at the Tour despite testing positive for amphetamines, only he was not banned because the test was carried out by police while he was driving.
After pulling on the race’s yellow jersey in July after his victory in the fourth stage time trial the German claimed he did not take amphetamines, a stimulant which can be found in many over-the-counter medicines.
During the Tour de France only four drugs cheats were snared. Spaniard Manuel Beltran, of Liquigas, and Barloworld rider Moises Duenas, also of Spain, tested positive for EPO.
Italian star Riccò then joined them in exiting the race in disgrace after testing positive for CERA. On the race’s final day Dmitri Fofonov, a Kazakh who rides for Credit Agricole, tested positive for a banned stimulant.