Cycling

Di Luca tests positive for EPO, risks life ban

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PONTE DI LEGNO, Italy (AP)

Former Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca tested positive for EPO in a surprise test at his home before this year's race, organizers said Friday.

If confirmed in a backup ''B'' sample, Di Luca risks a lifetime ban since this is his third offense.

The UCI provisionally suspended Di Luca pending a hearing with the Italian cycling federation and the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad fired the 37-year-old Italian rider.

The test was carried out April 29, five days before the Giro started, and the result drew a harsh rebuke from Vini Fantini team director Luca Scinto.

''Di Luca is an idiot. I never wanted him,'' Scinto said. ''Di Luca is sick. He needs to be helped.''

Seemingly headed for retirement just a few months ago, Di Luca signed with Vini Fantini on April 26. Scinto and others were against hiring him but sponsors eventually prevailed.

The race ends Sunday and Di Luca stands 26th overall, 33 minutes, 33 seconds behind overall leader Vincenzo Nibali.

In 2009, Di Luca was given a two-year ban after testing positive during the Giro for CERA, an advanced form of the blood booster EPO. That ban was subsequently reduced by nine months after he collaborated with Italian anti-doping authorities.

Di Luca was stripped of his second-place finish and two stage wins in the 2009 race.

And after winning the 2007 Giro, Di Luca was banned for three months later in the year for frequent visits to Carlo Santuccione, a physician at the center of a four-year doping investigation titled Oil for Drugs.

He fared well in several stages of this year's race, finishing third in the seventh leg, seventh in Stage 9, sixth in Stage 11 and 10th in Thursday's uphill time trial.

It's the second doping case from this year's race, after French rider Sylvain Georges tested positive for the banned stimulant Heptaminol in a urine sample after the seventh stage. The 28-year-old AG2R La Mondiale rider was immediately withdrawn from the race.

The 19th stage on Friday was canceled due to snow.

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