The UCI has today confirmed that former AG2R La Mondiale rider Steve Houanard has been banned for two years after testing positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test. It has also asked for disciplinary proceedings to be opened against Belgian cyclist Leif Hoste as a result of irregularities in his biological passport profile.
Hoste, aged 35 and three times a runner-up at the Tour of Flanders, retired at the end of the 2012 season, which he rode with the Belgian UCI Professional Continental outfit, Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas.
In the wake of Lance Armstrong’s confession last week the UCI has pointed to its biological passport programme as the key weapon in its arsenal against drugs cheats.
The governing body has stressed that Hoste has “the right to the presumption of innocence until a final decision has been made on this matter.”
However, the fact that the disciplinary proceedings it has asked the Belgian national cycling federation, the RLVB, to open relate to his biological passport, can be seen as providing further evidence to underpin the UCI's insistence that the programme identifies riders who need to be looked at more closely.
Houanard’s ban for using EPO, however - the sample that tested positive was taken on 21 September last year - is perhaps more troubling for the authorities, highlighting that it is not the preserve of riders of past decades, but is being used right now.
The Frenchman, aged 26, turned pro with Argos-Shimano in 2009 and joined AG2R in 2011. As an amateur riding for Chambéry Cyclisme Formation, he finished third overall in the Tour d’Alsace in 2008.
The UCI added that Houanard signed a document accepting the sanction on 18 January.
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.