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Bora-Hansgrohe pulled out of the Bretagne Classic on Tuesday after an unnamed rider tested positive for COVID-19. The team later announced that the rider has since registered a negative result on a follow-up test.
“We received the positive result this morning and reacted immediately. The team cannot participate in the race,” said Jan-Niklas Droste of the Bora-Hansgrohe medical staff, according to a press release earlier on Tuesday. “All team members who have been in direct contact with the rider will go into self-isolation according to official regulations. The affected rider is asymptomatic and displays no signs of illness.”
The identity of that rider was not made public. Bora’s planned list of starters for the French WorldTour race was composed of Cesare Benedetti, Marcus Burghardt, Jempy Drucker, Patrick Gamper, Oscar Gatto, Jay McCarthy, and Ide Schelling. None of those riders is on the team’s Tour de France roster.
Later on Tuesday, Bora-Hansgrohe published a follow-up statement saying that the rider who had initially tested positive for COVID-19 had since tested negative in a follow-up test, stating that the initial result was a “likely false positive test.”
In the team statement, manager Ralph Denk criticized the pre-race testing protocols currently in place due to the possibility of false positives.
“It is known that PCR tests have a certain rate of error and thus produce false positive results. This in itself would not be a problem, if there were the possibility to check the results immediately in the case of a positive finding,” Denk said.
“In the anti-doping regulations, an A Sample and a B Sample are provided, precisely for this reason. If the A Sample is positive, the result is checked with the B Sample. In the UCI’s current testing strategy, this verification is not present. Anti-doping labs are also accredited, which means that certain standards are set and checked. That would be one approach. A central lab or certain certified labs. We are talking about athletes who have prepared for a race for weeks or months and then might not be allowed to start the event due to a false finding.”
Although riders have pulled out of WorldTour events due to positive COVID-19 tests so far this season, Bora’s withdrawal from the Bretagne Classic marks the first time an entire team has pulled out of a WorldTour race for that reason.
The event did continue with one fewer team on Tuesday, with Michael Matthews sprinting to his first win of 2020 in Plouay.