Professional cycling reeling from four separate doping cases

Thomas Frei, Fuyu Li, Mattia Gavazzi, Christof Kerschbaum implicated

Professional cycling suffered multiple blows to its image in the last few days as news of four separate doping cases broke.

The first was Team BMC rider Thomas Frei, who tested positive for EPO and was suspended by his team.

Chinese rider Li Fuyu was the next. He tested positive for an anabolic steroid, cycling's ruling body the UCI announced on Thursday.

Li, who rides for Lance Armstrong's American team RadioShack, failed a doping control for the banned substance clebuterol on March 23 when competing in Flanders.

The UCI has provisionally suspended the 31-year-old, who turned professional in 2007.

"The Chinese (cycling) federation will determine if he has breached the rules," a statement issued by the UCI revealed.

Italian cyclist Mattia Gavazzi of the CSF team was next. He tested positive for cocaine following a test at the end of March and has been provisionally suspended, an official source said Wednesday.

Gavazzi, 26, tested positive on March 31 during the Week of Lombardy. He can now request a B test in line with regulations.

Gavazzi is the son of Pierino Gavazzi, who won the 1980 Milan-San Remo race.

Finally, Austrian cyclist Christof Kerschbaum has become the first athlete to risk jail under the country's new anti-doping law, after being indicted for doping.

Kerschbaum, 33, has been indicted for trafficking doping substances, Vienna prosecutors told AFP Thursday.

He now risks six months in prison if convicted, under a new law introduced in 2008 which foresees up to five years in jail for the possession and trafficking of doping substances, which was previously only deemed a minor offence.

Kerschbaum is accused of supplying at least five athletes - who remain unnamed - with banned substances, including blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), starting in mid-2008, prosecutors said.

The cyclist was indicted five months ago but prosecutors only announced the move on Thursday at the opening of a trial against a Vienna pharmacist, who allegedly supplied Kerschbaum with doping substances.

Kerschbaum was already detained in March 2009 as part of an investigation into the trafficking of doping products but was released after 11 days on the condition that he would not seek to influence proceedings.

The cyclist later admitted he had obtained EPO, testosterone and other doping substances in 2004 from the Vienna pharmacist who is now on trial.

The former coach of the Austrian Nordic skiing team, Walter Mayer, was also arrested as part of the same investigation, suspected of having procured and supplied doping products including EPO.

Mayer had already been implicated in doping scandals at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006.

Austria strengthened its anti-doping law even further this year: athletes who are found guilty of doping can now be jailed for up to 10 years on charges of fraud.

© AFP & BikeRadar 2010

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