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News breaks just days before Tour de France; rider denies ever knowingly using masking agent

Just three days before the start of the Tour de France in Leeds and one day after 21-year-old Simon Yates was a surprise inclusion in their Tour lineup, it has been revealed that Orica-GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey, who wore the leader’s jersey during last year’s race, has been charged with a doping offence.

The South African Insititute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) confirmed today that the 30-year-old South African had tested positive for the prescription diuretic, Probenecid, which can be used as a masking agent. Impey dentes ever having knowingly used the substance and has vowed to clear his name.

The revelation of doping infringements just before the Tour starts has become almost a traditional part of the pre-race build up as labs, governing bodies, teams and national federations seek to avoid the embarrassment and turmoil involved with pulling a rider from a team mid-race.

Impey's positive result came from samples taken at the time trials during the South African Road Cycling Championships in Durban on 6 February this year, but according to SAIDS it is only being revealed now due to delays caused by factors including the death of a member of staff at the laboratory that conducted the tests. 

“Khalid Galant, CEO of SAIDS, explained: “The delay in making the announcement has been due to an extra confirmation analysis requirement, which is routine for banned substances of this nature.

“The unfortunate passing of a key staff member at the doping control laboratory in Bloemfontein in March 2014 also affected the standard turnaround time of presenting the final result of the samples from the SA Road Cycling Championships.”

Impey, not named in Orica-GreenEdge’s Tour de France team yesterday, is provisionally suspended from 23 June 2014 but will have the right to defend himself at an independent tribunal.

On his website, the cyclist said that he was notified of the adverse analytical finding on 23 June.

He went on: “I had no knowledge of Probenecid nor have I ever taken the substance knowingly in any manner. I am committed to drug-free sport and fully intend to take all steps necessary to clear myself of any suspicion.

“The notification came as a complete shock to me just days before the start of the Tour de France, particularly since anti-doping tests conducted on me on 8 and 9 February 2014 yielded no adverse results.

“I immediately flew back to South Africa and was present at the analysis of my B sample on 27 June 2014, the results of which confirmed the initial analysis.

“I am extremely distressed by the finding, as I have always raced clean throughout my career. Every result that I have achieved to date has been as a result of hard work and dedication on my part.

Impey added: “I notified my team immediately after being informed by Cycling South Africa of the adverse finding. I would like to thank them, my family and friends for their support during this difficult time. I remain confident that I will be vindicated and proved innocent of any wrongdoing.”

In a statement, his team said it “would like to underline that it respects Daryl Impey’s right to prove his full innocence and will not comment any further until the process has run its due course and final conclusion has been made.”

It added: “As per the team’s code of conduct, Daryl Impey will not feature on the team’s roster until the case has been closed and he is fully eligible to ride.”

Whatever the reason for the delay in Impey’s case, it means that news of the positive test breaks at a time when it is likely to cast a shadow over the Yorkshire Grand Départ, and also comes days after Tinkoff-Saxo stood down Roman Kreuziger due to biological passport irregularities. Seasoned Tour de France watchers will be aware however that such stories are a near-perennial part of the build-up to the race.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.