Bardiani-CSF rider Nicola Ruffoni says he suspects a prostate infection may be to blame for his testing positive for a growth hormone on the eve of the Giro d’Italia.
News of his positive test broke on the eve of the 100th edition of the race starting on Sardinia, where the Italian rider had been due to make his Grand Tour debut and where he had already taken part in Thursday’s team presentation.
> Doping scandal hits Giro d'Italia on eve of race
The 26-year-old, winner of two stages of the Tour of Croatia last month, was excluded from the race by the UCI Professional Continental squad, as was team mate Stefano Pirazzi, who tested positive for a similar substance.
On Friday evening, Ruffoni wrote on Facebook: “After the positive result following an anti-doping control I was subjected to on 25 April 2017 and after the initial surprise and confusion I wish to reiterate the following:
“I have never, repeat never, in my career as a bike racer used products banned under anti-doping rules,” he insisted.
“My dietary habits have not changed in recent months, nor has my lifestyle.
“I am trying to provide a logical explanation for what has happened to me by going back over what I did in the months before the test.
“The thing that could perhaps have relevance to the presence of growth hormone in my urine may be a bad prostate infection that I suffered from between 20 March and 20 April and which forced me to stop riding and undergo treatment with antibiotics.
“I will therefore consult an expert in endocrinology to obtain advice on the subject.
“I am aware that my career as a cyclist is at risk but am just as aware of not having undertaken any fraudulent procedure,” he added.
“In the meantime, I shall calmly await the counter-analysis [of the B sample] and ill seek to defend my credibility right to the end.”
The Giro d’Italia would have been Ruffoni’s Grand Tour debut. Team mate Pirazzi won the mountains classification of the race in 2013 and the following year took a stage victory.
Both riders have the right to request a test of their B sample and Bardiani-CSF has said that should those also produce a positive result, their contracts will be terminated.
Earlier on Friday, Ruffoni had protested his innocence in an interview published in his hometown newspaper, the Giornale di Brescia.
He said that prior to the sample that led to the positive result being taken on 25 April, he had already undergone six anti-doping controls since the start of the year and had been the subject of two more while on Sardinia.
“I've always undergone blood tests in the certainty of never having cheated,” he maintained.
Ruffoni added that if his B sample proves positive, he will give up professional cycling.
But he added: “This whole story, after the controversy over our invitation to the Giro, stinks of a conspiracy.
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