AG2R Frenchman fails out-of-competition test
The UCI has provisionally suspended Steve Houanard (AG2R La Mondiale) for EPO use following the results of an out-of-competition test conducted on September 21, 2012.
"The decision to provisionally suspend this rider was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Barcelona indicating an adverse analytical finding of EPO in a urine sample," read a statement from the UCI. "The provisional suspension of Mr Houanard remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the French Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules. Houanard has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample."
The 26-year-old Frenchman is currently at the Tour of Beijing, the final WorldTour event of the 2012 season, where he finished 21st on the opening stage. AG2R La Mondiale has withdrawn Houanard from competition and he will remain sidelined while the French Cycling Federation conducts its disciplinary proceedings.
The suspension of Houanard comes during the time AG2R La Mondiale is seeking a renewal of its WorldTour licence for the 2013 season.
"It is with sadness that I heard this unfortunate news," said AG2R La Mondiale general manager Vincent Lavenu in a statement from the team. "Above all, I’m driven this evening by a strong feeling of anger because of the damage to the team and our sponsors. I want to reiterate our commitment to the biological passport and to the values upheld by the International Cycling Union. We have full confidence in the competent authorities in their fight against doping."
Houanard turned professional with Skil-Shimano in 2009 and remained with the Dutch team through 2010. In 2011 Houanard joined his current squad, French ProTeam AG2R La Mondiale. Houanard's best result during his stint with AG2R was at the 2011 Route du Sud stage race where he notched a third place finish on stage 4. He has one Grand Tour finish in his palmares, 133rd overall at the 2011 Vuelta a España.