Cardoso handed four-year ban for EPO

Decision made 16 months after initial test

André Cardoso has been handed a four-year ban EPO, more than 16 months after testing positive for the banned blood-booster.

The Portuguese rider, then under contract with Trek-Segafredo, returned the positive test in an out-of-competition control on June 18, 2017, 12 days before the start of the 2017 Tour de France.

After requesting analysis of his B-sample, the case dragged on, with little light shed on proceedings. On Wednesday, the UCI issued a statement announcing that they had reached a decision and that Cardoso would be banned for four years.

"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal has rendered its decision in the case involving André Cardoso," read the statement.

"The Anti-Doping Tribunal found the rider guilty of an anti-doping rule violation (use of Erythropoietin) and imposed 4-year period of ineligibility on the rider."

As well as being suspended by Trek-Segafredo, Cardoso was provisionally suspended by the UCI when the positive test was announced on June 27 of last year. As with similar cases in the past, the period of ineligibility already served is likely to be taken into account, meaning his four-year ban would be backdated to start from that date and thus run to July 2021.

Cardoso started his career on Portuguese teams, before riding for Caja Rural for three years. He stepped up to the WorldTour with Garmin in 2014 and transferred to Trek-Segafredo for 2017. At 34, the ban could well spend the end for his career.

Cardoso has always denied wrongdoing. "I am fully aware that I will be presumed to be guilty," he wrote in a statement when news of the case first broke, “but it’s important to me to say that I am devastated by this news and I wanted to state that I have never taken any illegal substances.

"I’ve seen first-hand through my career the awful effects that performance enhancing drugs have had on our sport, and I would never want to be a part of that. I’ve always tried to be a constructive influence in the peloton and on young, aspiring cyclists. It is my great hope that the B sample will come back as negative and clear me of any wrongdoing."

In that statement, Cardoso appealed to the sport’s governing body to analyse his B-Sample “as soon as possible”, yet the case dragged on for well over a year.

In July this year, Velonews reported that the results in the B-sample did not match those of the original sample, with the findings stating that the presence of EPO was "doubtful but inconclusive".

This appears to have been the cause for the delay, as Cardoso's lawyers went up against those from the UCI and WADA. A clause in the WADA Code and the UCI's own anti-doping regulations states that a sanction can still be pursued even if the B-Sample is inconclusive, based on presumed 'use' of the banned substance rather than its 'presence' in the sample.

"Use may be established based upon reliable analytical data from the analysis of an A Sample (without confirmation from an analysis of a B Sample) or from the analysis of a B Sample alone where the Anti-Doping Organization provides a satisfactory explanation for the lack of confirmation in the other Sample," reads the relevant section of the regulations.

"I don’t think this is about doping anymore, it now feels like it is about politics,” Cardoso told Velonews in July. “The UCI knows that I’m not a star, I’m not a millionaire. I don’t have the big money to fight. They do not want to say, ‘Maybe the lab made a mistake,’ because it is easier to just put me out of the sport."

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