BREAKING: Danilo Di Luca positive for EPO

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PONTE DI LEGNO, Italy, May 24, 2013 (AFP) – Italian cyclist Danilo Di Luca, currently competing at the 96th Giro d’Italia, tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test before the race, a report said Friday.

Di Luca, who has already served a ban for failing a doping test at the Giro and has been embroiled in other doping affairs, tested positive for the banned blood booster at the end of April, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Di Luca was without a contract at the start of the season but managed to sign for the second division team Vini Fantini, who were assured a place in the three-week race.

Despite having only two days of racing in his legs, the 37-year-old Di Luca was called into the team in time for the May 4 start in Naples. Although he has failed to win a stage or challenge for overall honours, Di Luca has often been seen on the attack.

Di Luca finished 10th in Thursday’s uphill time trial behind stage winner and overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali, who now has a 4min 02sec over his closest rival, Australian Cadel Evans, with two stages to race. The Italian sits in 26th place overall at just over 33min behind Nibali.

According to Gazzetta, whose parent company RCS owns and organises the race, Di Luca tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test at his home on April 29.

A former race winner, in 2007, Di Luca has a doping past. He returned two positive doping tests from samples taken during the 2009 edition of the race, which he finished as runner-up behind Russian Denis Menchov.

Di Luca denied doping at that time but finally confessed and earned a more lenient sanction. Instead of a two-year ban, he was suspended for 15 months.

Di Luca also returned abnormal results from test samples at the 2007 edition of the race, which he won.

It prompted a prosecutor to demand a two-year ban, but the cyclist was cleared at the 11th hour by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) due to a lack of evidence.

Friday’s 19th stage, the first of two consecutive days in the mountains, was cancelled by organisers because of heavy snow on a revised route.

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