Roberto Heras' Liberty Seguros team says it will have no option but to fire Heras if the B-sample test from stage 20 of this year's Vuelta confirms the A-sample finding that he used EPO during the Vuelta.
"If the positive is confirmed he will have to leave Liberty Seguros," team manager Pablo Anton told Spanish sports daily AS. "All the teams in the UCI ProTour have signed a code of ethics which states that any rider who tests positive will be fired."
Heras' B-sample test is scheduled to be conducted at three separate labs on November 21. Anton says the team will wait until then before taking any action. "He has been suspended provisionally, but up until that date we will be supporting him," said Anton. "We should respect his rights and a presumption of innocence until then."
Heras continues to maintain his innocence, and told Marca that the news of the positive test was, "the worst moment in my sporting career."
However, Heras said, "I don't want to portray myself as a victim. I believe it is a laboratory error and I'm concentrating all my efforts on proving it and that's why I've got a specialist lawyer on the case."
Heras is relying on previous false-positive A sample tests for EPO involving athletes from Spain and other countries. In 2001 Spanish track cyclist Joan Llaneras returned a non-negative A sample after the world championships in Antwerp, but was subsequently exonerated by the B-sample analysis.
Earlier this year Italian rider Fabrizio Guidi (Phonak) also came up non-negative after a test at the HEW Cyclassics on July 31. Phonak suspended Guidi, but he was later found negative by the B-sample analysis . In both those cases the negative finding came from a B-sample analysis conducted by the French anti-doping lab at Châtenay-Malabry, which is one of the three labs that will test Heras' B-sample.
A more complex recent case, that of Belgian Triathlete Rutger Beke, revealed problems with the EPO test, which in certain circumstances can produce a false positive even if conducted properly.