Italian Danilo Di Luca was handed a two-year doping ban and a hefty fine by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on Monday.
Di Luca, the 2007 Tour of Italy champion, finished second to Russia's Denis Menchov in a thrilling finish to last year's race.
But the weeks that followed were decidedly less exciting for the Italian, who had become a target for doping controllers due to anomalies in the blood parameters on his biological passport.
Di Luca was informed that samples provided during the three-week race had tested positive twice for the latest generation of the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), called CERA.
After an immediate provisional suspension by the International Cycling Union (UCI), CONI's anti-doping chief Ettore Torri in December requested a three-year ban for Di Luca, adding a year for "aggravating circumstances".
Di Luca was defiant, protesting his innocence and pledging to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Even if this last resort fails, he vowed not to retire from the sport.
"This is not over. I can still to fight this and I'm going to. We will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)," Di Luca said according to ANSA news agency. "For the moment all we have is this decision, no explanations. All I can do is reaffirm that I have never taken banned substances and that I was not expecting this suspension.
"I'm optimistic of and confident that CAS will return a decision (in his favour). Even if CAS confirms the suspension, I will not hang up my bike. But I'm sure I will be back before two years."
Di Luca has been embroiled in doping scandals before, notably the 'Oil for Drugs' affair that led to a three-month suspension at the end of 2007.
As well as a two-year ban that is likely to be accepted by the UCI, the 34-year-old - who also has a number of one-day classic wins to his name - was handed a fine of 280,000 euros.
His two-year suspension was back-dated to begin on July 22, 2009 - when his last positive test was announced.
© AFP 2010
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