Stefano Pirazzi and Nicola Ruffoni of Bardiani CSF have returned positive tests in out-of-competition doping controls, the UCI confirmed Thursday. Both riders were slated to start the Giro d'Italia, which sets out from Sardinia on Friday.
The news of the doping cases broke just after the official team presentation in Alghero on Thursday evening, where Bardiani-CSF had paraded with the other teams before this year's 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia. It is unclear if the Italian team and the two riders knew of the failed tests as they took part in the team presentation.
A UCI statement said that doping tests detected GH-Releasing Peptides (GHRPs) in the A samples of Ruffoni and Pirazzi, taken in out-of-competition controls on 25 and 26 April 2017, respectively.
"The riders have the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample. In accordance with UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the riders have been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the respective affair," the UCI stated.
Because the riders are on the same team, Bardiani CSF faces a suspension of 15-45 days under article 7.12.1 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, subject to the decision of the UCI Disciplinary Commission. The Italian Professional Continental team is expected start the race on Friday but without Pirazzi and Ruffoni.
The Bardiani team issued a statement shortly after the positives were announced, saying that the "riders will be sacked if confirmed positive" and threatened "possible legal action for damages".
GH-Releasing Peptides (GHRPs) are classified as "Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances and Mimetics" in the World Anti-Doping Prohibited List 2017.
Ruffoni and Pirazzi are not the first cyclists to test positive for GHRPs. Colombian Maria Luisa Calle was banned for four years after testing positive for GHRP-2 at the Pan American Games in 2015. GHRPs have many of the same effects as growth hormone - enhanced recovery and lean muscle mass - but fewer of the negative side effects because they induce the body to create more of its own growth hormones.
Bardiani CSF secured an automatic wildcard invitation to the 2017 Giro d'Italia thanks to winning the season-long Coppa Italia series in 2016. With two of the remaining three wildcard spots going to Gazprom-Rusvelo and CCC Sprandi, Italian Pro Continental teams Androni Giocattoli, Nippo-Vini Fantini and Willier Selle Italia were left fighting for the sole remaining spot, which eventually went to Willier.
Pirazzi, 30, claimed the Giro's king of the mountains title in 2013 and won stage 17 in the 2014 edition of the race. 26-year-old Ruffoni has delivered several top 10 sprint results in his three career Giro d'Italia appearances. He took back-to-back stage victories and the points jersey at the Tour of Croatia two weeks ago.
Both Androni and Nippo-Vini Fantini loudly protested their exclusion, with sponsor Androni Sidermec going as far as threatening to quit the sport in disgust.
If suspended, Bardiani-CSF will be the fourth team this year to be held from competition for multiple doping positives: Continental teams Team Elkov-Author Cycling and Team Pishgaman Cycling and the Pro Continental Soul Brasil team have all sat out race days this year.