Positive EPO test rules Pfannberger out of Tour of Italy

Austrian champion provisionally suspended by Katusha

Austrian professional Christian Pfannberger has been suspended by the Russian Katusha team following a positive test for Erythropoetin (EPO) from a random doping control, the team announced late Wednesday.

Pfannberger, 29, was due to start the three-week Tour of Italy this coming Saturday but he has been provisionally suspended by his team while they wait to see if he requests analysis of a B sample.

In the Giro, Pfannberger will be replaced by Russian Alexander Serov.

Pfannberger, the reigning Austrian champion, rode strongly last year in the one-day classics where he finished in the top ten of the three Ardennes classics in Amstel, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege while racing for Barloworld.

Katusha, the first Russian-backed team in the peloton and which stars the likes of Australian Robbie McEwen and Italian Filippo Pozzato, said Pfannberger had tested positive on March 19.

If he requests analysis of a B sample and that returns positive the 29-year-old faces a two-year ban and sacking from his team.

Pfannberger's positive test will be seen as yet another blow to Austrian cycling, which is still reeling from the fallout of the scandal prompted by Bernhard Kohl's positive from last year's Tour de France.

Kohl finished a surprise third in the race, winning the coveted polka dot jersey for the King of the Mountains title despite not being a recognised climber.

Later, it was revealed he had tested for the latest generation of the banned blood booster EPO, (CERA).

© AFP 2009...

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