In what is turning out to be a black day for cycling following this morning’s news of an abnormal doping test result for Alberto Contador during the Tour de France, the UCI has confirmed that Ezequiel Mosquera, runner-up in the Vuelta earlier this month, and Xacobeo-Galicia team mate David Garcia, both failed drugs tests during the Spanish grand tour.
According to a statement on the UCI website, traces of Hydroxyethyl starch have been detected in urine samples collected from both riders on Thursday 16 September, the day of Stage 18 from Valladolid to Salamanca, won by Mark Cavendish.
The substance, which increases the ability of the bloodstream to deliver oxygen, with side-effects including potential reduction of haematocrit, is the same one that former T-Mobile rider Oscar Sevilla is currently suspended for after failing a drugs test during August's Vuelta a Colombia.
The two cyclists now have the right to request a counter-analysis of their B samples, and if those confirmed the presence of the prohibited substance, they could expect to be banned for two years.
Álvaro Pino, the directeur sportive of Xacobeo-Galicia, told the Spanish sports daily Marca this morning that the news had left him in shock and that he and the team were sure that doping was impossible in this instance. He added that he had not as yet spoken to Mosquera, but intended doing so some time today.
The Xacobeo-Galicia team is already set to fold at the end of this year as it searches for a sponsor to replace the regional government that currently backs it, which said earlier this month that it would not be renewing its support. Today's news makes the team's demise almost certain.
Mosquera recently agreed a two-year contract with the Dutch outfit Vacansoleil, which has already signed the Riccardo Ricco, who himself completed a 20-month ban for doping earlier this year but who continues to be dogged by press speculation linking him to anti-drugs investigations in his native Italy.
This morning, Italian newspaper Leggo reported that Ricco, who was banned after testing positive for CERA during the 2008 Tour de France, had his home near Modena raided with investigators discovering 50 or so partially crushed pills in a safe. They have now been sent for analysis to ascertain what they are.
The current investigation into Ricco results from his being linked to a numer of communications intercepted by the authorities, including a text message sent to his coach from an anonymous number enquiring about how to obtain EPO.
Last week, Enrico Rossi, a team mate of Ricco at Ceramica Flaminia who also happens to be the brother of Ricco's former partner and mother of his child, Vania Rossi, herself found positive for CERA earlier this year, was one of four people arrested as part of the ongoing doping investigation. A pharmacist and a nurse are among the others held by police.
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.