Spanish climbing specialist Iban Mayo became the latest rider to fail a drugs test after it was revealed he had tested positive for EPO during the Tour de France, it was announced by his Saunier-Duval team on Monday.
The 29-year-old, who finished 16th in the Tour behind compatriot Alberto Contador which finished on Sunday, has been suspended by his team.
“The Saunier Duval team were notified by the International Cycling Union (UCI) that Iban Mayo had tested positive for EPO following a test on July 24 which was a rest day on the Tour de France,” read a statement on the team’s website.
The statement added that they had decided to suspend him immediately and would sack him if the B sample confirmed the positive test he would be sacked. If it is confirmed Mayo would be the third rider to have tested positive on the Tour.
Pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov was thrown out of the race July 24 for homologous blood doping while veteran Cristian Moreni was ejected the day after for failing a test.
Then race leader Michael Rasmussen – whose participation had been queried in any case because of missing four dope tests in the past 18 months – was thrown out by his Rabobank team later on Wednesday for lying about his whereabouts in June – he said he had been in Mexico when in fact he had been sighted in Italy.
It is not the first time Mayo – who almost saw his career come to a premature end when aged 22 he was involved in a serious car accident and was confined to a wheelchair for a month – has been implicated in a doping story as last month he was suspected of having failed a test in the Giro d’Italia. However, he was cleared by the UCI.
Mayo was reported to have tested positive for testosterone, the banned male sex hormone which snared Floyd Landis on his way to victory in last year’s Tour de France. But the UCI said in a statement that Mayo, who was tested following his victory on the 19th stage to Terme di Comano, had not breached doping rules.
But after the news of the Tour positive became public, the UCI’s Pat McQuaid said that Mayo had been targeted for dope testing, thanks to blood profiling.
In his prime as part of the Basque Euskaltel team, the 29-year-old Mayo was one of the few riders capable of challenging the dominance of Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich on the Tour de France mountain stages. He won the stage to Alpe d’Huez in 2003, and won the Dauphine Libere stage race, an important build-up to the Tour, in 2004 and showed signs of a return to form this season when he won a stage on the Giro.