Fränk Schleck has been banned for a year as a result of his positive test for the diuretic Xipamide during last year’s Tour de France. The partially backdated ban, which has been reduced from the maximum that could have been imposed of two years on grounds of proportionality, will expire on 13 July, in the middle of this year’s race.
The 32-year-old's RadioShack-Nissan team, as it was then called, confirmed during the second rest day of the Tour de France in Pau that Schleck's A sample had tested positive. The doping control was conducted three days earlier at the end of Stage 13 at Cap d'Agde.
Schleck, who has always protested his innocence, saying he did not dope but did not know how he had ingested the substance, immediately requested that his B sample also be tested, but the result remained the same, and disciplinary proceeedings were opened against him.
There is no minimum threshold for an adverse analytical finding to be returned in the case of a diuretic, meaning that the onus was on Schleck, as it was on Alberto Contador following his positive test for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour, to prove that it came to be in his system innocently.
The substance is not performance enhancing in itself but can be used as a masking agent.
"Of course I am disappointed by the verdict that has just been announced," said Schleck in a statement quoted on Eurosport released after the vedict of the anti-doping panel of the Agence Luxembourgeoise Anti Dopage (ALAD) was announced just after 6pm local time this evening.
In its decision, the ALAD said that it believed that the substance came to be in Schleck's body innocently, perhaps through a contaminated supplement, but that he had failed to provide an explanation of how it came to be there.
"I think that the decision to suspend me during one year is too severe considering the fact that the Council acknowledged that I unintentionally consumed a contaminated product," he added.
"Unfortunately the provisions of the UCI are such that an involuntary contamination is sufficient in order to pronounce a punishment.
"We will now analyse the decision in detail and decide on potential further steps. However I bear a positive aspect of the decision in mind, the judges acknowledged that I am not a cheater."
In a statement issued shortly after the sanction was announced, Schleck's RadioShack-Leopard-Trek team said: "The Management of Leopard S.A. has taken note of the verdict of the CDD (Conseil de Discipline contre le Dopage) in the case of Fränk Schleck's positive test for xipamide during the 2012 Tour de France.
"Leopard S.A. is content that the anti-doping authorities have now reached a verdict, but will not make any further declarations about the case until it has studied the argumentation of the CDD more closely."
For now, Schleck remains listed as a rider on the team website.
Schleck, who had finished third behind his brother Andy and the winner Cadel Evans in the 2011 Tour de France had faced a ban of up to two years.
The shorter ban imposed by the ALAD's disciplinary panel is, according to its decision (published in French here) "proportional to the intrinsic seriousness of the violation of the anti-doping rule."
The rider has the right to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), while the UCI and World Anti Doping Agency are also entitled to appeal to the same body to seek a longer ban.
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.