Dutch cyclist Thomas Dekker has been ruled out of the Tour de France three days before the start after testing positive for the banned blood-booster EPO, his Silence team announced Wednesday.
The sample was originally taken on December 24, 2007, but Silence said that new procedures introduced since then allowed for further tests which revealed a positive reading for EPO.
Dekker, who was scheduled to help two-time Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia in the hillier stages of this year's race, now faces suspension from his team and a likely ban from the sport.
Silence said on their internet site that Dekker fell victim to the vigilance of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), who had called for further testing of a sample taken, randomly, from him on Christmas Eve two years ago. In the meantime the 24-year-old has been pulled out of the Tour de France, due to start on Saturday.
"He found out on Wednesday morning that fresh analysis, carried out in May at the behest of WADA, on urine samples from a random doping control had turned up positive for EPO," the team said in a statement. "The first tests had turned up negative but the samples were kept for retroactive testing so that newer forms of EPO could be detected with the latest detection methods."
At the time the samples were taken Dekker competed for the Rabobank team, whose leader, Denis Menchov, is a yellow jersey contender this year.
Dekker will now be replaced with Briton Charles Wegelius, according to team manager Marc Sergeant.
"I'm very disappointed. It happened when he was not competing for Silence and was at Rabobank, but still that doesn't make the news any less welcome," said Sergeant.
Dekker, a former Dutch champion, won the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in 2006 and the Tour of Romandy in 2007.
It is not be the first time the Dutchman has been embroiled in controversy.
In August last year it was reported that he was not selected for the Tour de France because of abnormally high blood parameters, an indication, though not proof, that blood manipulation has taken place.
Dekker also announced two years ago that he had been collaborating with Italian trainer Michele Ferrari, who has been controversially linked with administering EPO since the 1990s.
Ferrari is best known for having worked with seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who in 2001 admitted he had collaborated with the Italian doctor.
The use of EPO boosts the oxygen-rich blood cells in the blood, thus allowing athletes to work harder and for longer.
UCI statement requesting opening of disciplinary procedings against Thomas Dekker:
The International Cycling Union (UCI) today advised Mr Thomas Dekker that he has committed a potential violation under the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.
Based on these rules, the UCI has instructed the Monegasque Cycling Federation, to which Mr Dekker is affiliated, to open disciplinary proceedings on this matter.
The UCI’s request is based on two elements of evidence collected within the biological passport programme: Mr Dekker’s haematological profile and a laboratory report indicating the detection of recombinant EPO (Dynepo) in a urine sample.
According to a panel of scientific experts, the haematological profile established from blood samples collected from Mr Dekker in 2008 and 2009 demonstrates convincing evidence of the use of the prohibited method of enhancement of oxygen transfer.
The nature of Mr Dekker’s haematological profile prompted the UCI to conduct a detailed review of the results of EPO analyses conducted on urine samples taken from him since the commencement of the biological passport programme. As part of this review, the UCI requested the WADA accredited laboratory in Cologne to re-examine the results of a urine sample collected from Mr Dekker in December 2007. On 30 June 2009, the Cologne laboratory reported a finding of recombinant EPO (Dynepo) in this sample. This result was reported in accordance with new EPO detection and reporting rules approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency in May 2009.
In accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI will make no further comment on this matter until a final decision has been made.
© AFP & BikeRadar 2009