FOUGERES, France (CT) – Months after taking one of the biggest victories in his career, Gent-Wevelgem, Luca Paolini is facing a very uncertain future after the UCI announced that he has tested positive for cocaine.
The in competition test was taken on July 7 at the Tour de France. He finished 172nd into Cambrai on that day, making his sample a random control.
According to the UCI, his sample contained the cocaine metabolite Benzoylecgonine and he has been provisionally suspended as a result. He has the right to both request and attend a B sample test. Paolini has denied knowingly taking the substance.
His Katusha team has commented on the matter but has been guarded in its response.
“In application of the team policy the rider has been immediately withdrawn from the Tour de France,” it stated, although his suspension by the UCI meant that continuing in the race would have been impossible.
“Bearing in mind the anti doping regulations, the team will wait until the analysis of the B sample has been conducted before taking any further action or making any further comment. Team Katusha is fully determined to collaborate with the anti-doping agencies in order to resolve the matter.”
He rode the Giro d’Italia, finishing sixth on a stage, but didn’t compete between that race and the Tour.
Paolini is 38 years of age and turned professional with Mapei in 2002. He has raced with the Quick Step, Liquigas, Acqua & Sapone and Katusha teams and his wins include stages in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, as well as one day triumphs in the Giro del Piemonte, Brabantse Pijl and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Although he is close to 40 years of age, his Gent-Wevelgem victory this spring means that his career is still at a high level.
It remains to be seen if it can be proven if the substance was taken during or before the Tour de France.
Under the WADA Code, cocaine is only banned when it is used in competition. According to a WADA source, who said he could speak in general terms rather than about this specific case, if a rider can prove the substance was taken prior to starting the race and that the traces have remained in his system until then, he could potentially achieve a reduction in his suspension.