Stefan Schumacher tests positive for EPO

Gerolsteiner rider won both Tour time trials

Leading German cyclist Stefan Schumacher, a double stage winner on this year's Tour de France, has tested positive for doping, his Gerolsteiner team confirmed on Monday.

Schumacher was the second rider to test positive on Monday after Leonardo Piepoli, who won the race's 10th stage.

Gerolsteiner team boss Hans-Michael Holczer revealed the news about Schumacher to German sports agency SID, confirming earlier reports on the website of sports newspaper L'Equipe.

L'Equipe claimed Schumacher had tested positive for a new generation of the banned blood booster EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator) though Gerolsteiner did not mention any substance.

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."

France's national anti-doping agency (AFLD) confirmed CONI's announcement.

"The AFLD confirms that cyclist Leonardo Piepoli was today informed of two tests showing the presence of CERA EPO in blood samples from July 4 and 15 2008 during the Tour de France," a statement issued from their Chatenay-Malabry base near Paris announced.

CONI added Piepoli could come before their anti-doping commission on Friday.

Piepoli, a specialist climber, was a key helper of former Saunier Duval teammate Riccardo Ricco, 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.

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 QuickStep. No word has come from QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevre on the status of Schumacher with his team.

Three riders from this year's Tour de France have now tested positive for CERA; Ricco, Piepoli and Schumacher.

Schumacher has found 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, including Spaniard Manuel Beltran, of Liquigas, and Barloworld rider Moises Duenas, also of Spain. Both tested positive for EPO. Italian star Ricco 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.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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