The winner of the Tour of Portugal and two of his teammates have tested positive for EPO-CERA. The Continental team Liberty Seguros has been hit with three doping cases, as Nuno Ribeiro, Isidro Nozal and Hector Guerra all tested positive for EPO-CERA in controls prior to the Tour of Portugal last month. Team manager Vito Paulo Branco has confirmed the positive findings.
The doping controls were conducted August 3, two days before the race started. The three riders now face up to two-year ban if the B-sample tests confirm the findings.
Nuno Ribeiro, 32, has been on the continental Portuguese team since 2001. He won the Tour of Portugal with one stage win along the way.
Isidro Nozal, 31, rode for team ONCE, also under its names of Liberty Seguros, Liberty Seguros-Würth and Astana from 2000 to 2006.
Guerra, 31, has ridden for Spanish and Portuguese Continental and Professional Continental tams since turning pro in 2003. This season he has won six stages, including one in the Tour of Portugal. He also won the overall titles in the Grande Premio Internacional de Torres Vedras and the Vuelta a la Communidad de Madrid.
Insurance company Liberty Seguros announced that it would stop its sponsorship of the team, and apparently also its involvement in cycling altogether.
"It is with great sadness that we learned of this situation. The promotion of cycling has always been a commitment we made to the team, with our staff and the Portuguese in general,” said Jose Antonion de Sousa, CEO of Liberty Seguros. “However, Liberty Seguros is guided by honesty, accuracy and ethical behavior - we can never allow such a situation."
In confirming the three suspensions, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said that Guerra and Ribeiro would have to be removed from their nations' teams for the World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland, September 23 to 27. Guerra was to have ridden for Spain and Ribeiro for Portugal.
The organisation of the Portuguese Continental team is not related to Liberty Seguros-Würth, the squad of disgraced former team director Manolo Saiz.
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