Tour de France rider Luca Paolini tested positive for cocaine last Tuesday, according to L'Equipe. The Union Cycliste Internationale released a statement saying that the Katusha rider has been provisionally suspended until the results of a hearing. He has already been thrown out of the Tour de France, according to the Associated Press. Paolini has a right to request a B sample.
Katusha released a statement Friday evening acknowledging the news, and pledged to work with anti-doping agencies to resolve the matter.
L'Equipe notes that cocaine use is not forbidden by the UCI outside of competition. During competition, however, the substance is illegal. Because traces of cocaine can remain in urine for a long time, it's possible that Paolini used the substance before the Tour de France began last Saturday, or that he did not intend to use it as a performance enhancer. However, for cycling's purposes it's the date of the failed drug test that gets taken into account.
The 38-year-old was one of the oldest riders in the Tour de France. He is currently ranked 168th in the overall classification, however, and has never finished better than 69th in his previous four Tour de France appearances. His career highlights include stage wins in the 2013 Giro d'Italia and 2006 Vuelta a España. This year, he won the Gent-Wevelgem as one of 39 riders to actually finish the race out of an initial field of 160 due to weather conditions.
As a member of Katusha, he was expected to be a support sprinter Alexander Kristoff and climbing specialist Joaquim Rodriguez. A Katusha spokesman told the AP that he "was shocked" by the news.