Di Gregorio provisionally suspended for EPO

Delko Marseille rider tested positive during Paris-Nice

Frenchman Rémy Di Gregorio (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) has been provisionally suspended by the UCI pending confirmation of an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the blood booster EPO.

Di Gregorio's sample, taken after stage 5 of Paris-Nice, was found to contain evidence of darbepoetin, otherwise known by the brand name Aranesp, a second-generation recombinant human EPO hormone.

The UCI press release stated that it was an "intelligence-led doping control" that was planned and executed by its independent anti-doping foundation (CADF) in collaboration with the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) and the French public health agency (OCLAESP).

The Delko Marseille Provence KTM team said they were 'shocked and disappointed' to hear that Di Gregorio had tested positive for Arenesp, and confirmed that he had been provisionally suspended by the French Professional Continental team.

"I'm ashamed, I'm knocked out. I'll feel cheated deep in my heart if the results of the test are confirmed," team manager Frederic Rostaing said in a statement.

The team suggested that the case had "seriously questioned the belief in the team's 20-year project which is based on ethics."

The statement concluded with the team saying it would speak to its sponsors after competing in next week's Fleche Wallonne WorldTour race in Belgium.

Di Gregorio, who has been with the Delko Marseille squad since 2014, was previously caught up in a raid by the OCLAESP in 2012 of his then-Cofidis team hotel. The authorities seized various substances from his room that turned out to be legitimate supplements, and he was not prosecuted. He initially announced is retirement in 2017 but then decided to race again with Delko Marseille Provence.

He had been enjoying a relatively successful 2018 campaign, including a win in the mountains classification of the Etoile de Besseges, a stage win in the Tour la Provence, and finished third on stage 3 of Paris-Nice behind compatriot Jonathan Hivert and Luis Leon Sanchez from a breakaway.

Di Gregorio can request the analysis of his B-sample in hopes it will not confirm the positive. Because Aranesp is a recombinant version of human EPO, which is present in the same sample, the drug is distinguished from the endogenous hormone by modifications made to it that are unique.

The test for Aranesp was developed by researchers prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in conjunction with drug maker Amgen. Similar collaborations have occurred between anti-doping testers and pharmaceutical companies to develop tests for EPO-CERA.

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