Luca Paolini pictured before the stage.

UCI suspends Paolini for 18 months over positive test for cocaine

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Nine months after Luca Paolini’s positive test for a cocaine metabolite, the UCI’s Anti-Doping Tribunal has rendered a decision on the case, handing a ban to the rider.

The Italian underwent a random anti-doping test on July 6 when the Tour de France finished in Cambrai. The result was announced four days later when it was confirmed that he had tested positive for the cocaine metabolite Benzoylecgonine.

The matter was referred to the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal in mid-December.

In a statement issued on Tuesday morning, the UCI said that a decision had been reached.

“The Anti-Doping Tribunal found the rider guilty of a non-intentional anti-doping rule violation (presence of a cocaine metabolite – benzoylecgonine) and imposed an 18-month period of ineligibility on the rider.”

It said that further details would be released shortly.

Paolini is 39 years of age and turned professional with Mapei in 2002. He has raced with the Quick Step, Liquigas, Acqua & Sapone and Katusha teams.

His career victories 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.

He won Gent-Wevelgem last season.

In December Paolini admitted using the substance. In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, he said that he had begun taking sleeping pills after his brother’s death in 2004.

He felt he needed them to get a proper sleep in order to tackle the physical and mental demands of the following day.

Paolini said that he became addicted to those pills and lost lucidity as a result.

“And then came the cocaine. For me, it was inevitable…I did it almost without realizing it,” he said. “I was alone that night, I was alone during the two weeks of training in the mountains in mid-June, before the Tour, when I took cocaine.”

He said that he could not forgive himself, and that he said that he had ‘betrayed a generation’ that had believed in him.

Under the WADA Code, cocaine is only banned when it is used in competition. Paolini’s claim was that he only used it in the build-up to the race. It remains to be seen if the UCI’s Anti-Doping Tribunal has deemed this to be untrue.

The tribunal was announced in September 2014, and due to become operational last year. It was set up to replace the previous system where national bodies passed judgements that could be favourable to the athletes in question.

It was also intended to speed up the process.

While this case has taken nine months before a final decision, CyclingTips understands it was first considered by the results management of the UCI prior to going to the Anti-Doping Tribunal.

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