Danilo Di Luca has questioned the validity of the testing used to discover traces of EPO CERA in his blood during this year's Giro d'Italia. The Italian, in Rome for the beginning of an Italian Olympic Committee [CONI] hearing into the offence, has also vowed to return to racing.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Di Luca's lawyers - Flavia Tortorella and Ernesto De Toni - were granted a 30-day postponement of proceedings against Di Luca as the UCI documentation outlining the results of the rider's anit-doping controls on May 20 and 28 of this year are not yet available.
"I will return soon, but I'm beginning to think there's a plot, " said Di Luca after the hour-long hearing. "I just can't find an explanation for the two positive results in the Giro d'Italia," he added. "I'm also thinking of the idea of a plot, but first I have to find this out for certain."
Di Luca's lawyers are presenting the argument that the testing used in the rider's case is not adequately robust and is open to false positives. "They have adapted the method that seeks to find EPO in urine for CERA in blood," they explained. "But the scientific community has not yet ruled on this method. There have been false positives. We are sure that the athlete has not taken any substance, at least voluntarily, and we believe that this method is wrong."
They have requested the samples be counter-analysed at a different laboratory - the original testing was done at Paris' Châtenay-Malabry laboratory - although regulations stipulate this is not possible and hence the request was denied.
Di Luca is convinced that there are grounds for successfully arguing the validity of the testing used to find his two positives and given this he'll be able to return to racing. "We have big doubts about the methodology used in doping controls which are positive. With this procedure there have already been cases of false positive and I think this is so in my case."
The 33-year-old from Spoltore was maintaining a brave face about his future despite the seemingly uncertain nature of his riding career. "I was told that if my positive was confirmed by counter analysis I would have retired from cycling, but now I have changed my mind and I am convinced that once again I'll be able to ride a another Giro d'Italia.
"I must say I also received a lot of solidarity from colleagues; there are always people who love you and those who don't. I'm willing to bet money on my return to racing. I know what I did and what I will, which is to win. What I am sorry about and it makes me think the worst is that once again everything happens just before the world championships, the second time I've had to miss a race that made to measure for me."