Danilo Di Luca has been sacked by Vini Fantini-Selle Italia after failing an out-of-competition doping test.
The Italian returned a positive test for EPO in an out-of-competition control carried out at his home on April 29 – just five days after signing for Vini Fantini-Selle Italia and less than a week before the start of the Giro d’Italia.
Di Luca has animated a number of stages at this year’s Giro d’Italia and finished third on stage seven, despite arriving at his home Grand Tour with just two days of racing in his legs.
The 37-year-old, who was previously banned in 2007 for his implication in the Oil for Drugs scandal, and in 2009 for testing positive for CERA, now faces a lifetime ban for a third offence.
Di Luca is also set to be sued by his team, whose manager, Angelo Citracca, claims he had been forced to select the rider by a sponsor.
“Danilo Di Luca was not part of our group, was not wanted by the team and was inserted into our set-up by our main sponsor Valentino Sciotti, who out of friendship and regional ties to the rider, insisted upon and created the conditions for his addition to the roster,” said Citracca.
“Following the news, which we received with disappointment this morning [Friday May 24], the team fired the rider on the spot and told him to leave the race by his own means.
“At this point, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia will also open civil proceedings to claim damages from the rider, in accordance with the internal rules that all members of the team signed up to.
“I’m knocked out. I never wanted Di Luca in the team and didn’t hide it, despite being criticised for my opinion.
“We made a mistake by accepting the repeated request from our main sponsor to have faith in a rider they are close friends with. Unfortunately this faith has been repaid with an incredible error.”
News agency, Reuters, quoted Valentino Sciotti, the boss of the team’s main sponsor, saying: “What can I say? I believed in the man and in the athlete and it is right that it should be me who takes the blame because I made a mistake.
“I must ask forgiveness from the fans, the team, the other sponsors, my partners and all the other cyclists who are racing in the Giro d’ Italia fairly and honestly, and all those young athletes who will be shaken by this news.”
Di Luca is the second doping withdrawal from this year’s Giro after Ag2r-La Mondiale rider, Sylvain Georges, tested positive for the banned stimulant Heptaminol in a urine sample after stage seven.
Some riders never get it! Thats why must be life time ban or 4year minimum! Pi**d off alway same riders giving cycling a bad name.
— Nicholas Roche (@nicholasroche) May 24, 2013
Di Luca! Doping in cycling disappeared but not in your cycling world!0 tolerance for cheaters! Hope you never come back into cycling!
— Andre Greipel (@AndreGreipel) May 24, 2013