Giro excludes Liberty rider

The pre-Giro health tests have claimed a victim, with Liberty Seguros rider Nuno Ribeiro forced out

The pre-Giro health tests have claimed a victim, with Liberty Seguros rider Nuno Ribeiro forced out

Liberty Seguros' rider Nuno Ribeiro will not be able to start the Giro d'Italia on Saturday after registering a haematocrit level of 52 per cent in health tests that have been undertaken today (Thursday). This put the Portuguese rider over the 50 per cent limit for a red blood cell count, and his team are to send the rider to Lausanne so that he can undergo further tests at the discretion of the International Cycling Union.

Winner of the Tour of Portugal in 2003 and third in the same event last year, 27-year-old Ribeiro joined the Liberty team this season. According to a statement released by Liberty Seguros has been training at altitude in recent weeks and this could explain his elevated red blood cell count. Liberty said that when tested in Madrid by the team earlier this week together with several team-mates Ribeiro's haematocrit level was registered three times as being between 47 and 48.

The team also said that Ribeiro's haematocrit was tested again yesterday by the team and he recorded a value of 48.5 per cent. According to Liberty's statement, "in spite of the apparent discrepancies in the analyses, there is absolutely no questioning of the result obtained by the UCI's experts, who deserve total credibility."

If, following tests the UCI undertakes in Lausanne, Ribeiro is found to have taken a banned product Liberty have underlined that he will be sacked, in accordance with the ProTour's ethical code. Ribeiro is set to undergo the first of those doping controls this evening.

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