By Monika Prell and Gregor Brown
Spain's Patxi Vila has tested non-negative for testosterone according to the International Cycling Union (UCI). The 32 year-old from Italian ProTour squad Lampre is requesting a counter-analysis.
"They visited me [for] an unannounced control on March 3, at home," the Basque told El Diario Vasco's Benito Urraburu. "In this control, some parameter related to testosterone did not correspond to the levels defined by the UCI."
"[I prefer to] recall it before everything is given a false colour," added Vila. The Spaniard referred to an existing rumour saying that he tested positive during the Tour de Romandie, as he abandoned the race while leading the mountain classification, just before the race's queen stage.
"They announced to me that the detected quantity was small, but that there has been an irregularity," said Vila. "It's a positive test, but until the counter-analysis has been carried out nothing can be said officially. An attorney and endocrinologist, who saw the specimen, said that the quantity is very little."
Vila, whose legal representative is the same one as Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, did not offer any explanation for this incident. "I could give you any excuse, but I won't do it," he said. "I have a quiet conscience. I already gave an explanation to my team. They have known me for years; I have spent a lot of time with them. I know that I am putting my career on the line, but the only thing I can do is to wait."
"He is an exemplary rider and we have faith in him," Lampre Press Officer Andrea Appiani told Cyclingnews. "We got the news yesterday [from the UCI via fax] after we returned from the long weekend holiday.
"We heard that there had been this control with results that are slightly above what is allowed," added Appiani. "We know that he has asked for a counter-analysis and we will wait for the counter-analysis results before we take any decision."
Appiani also confirmed the reason behind Vila's departure from the Tour de Romandie. "We were lacking a man in Romandie, so we asked Vila to do it even if he had not trained a lot," said Appiani. "He decided to do some stages, and it was anticipated that he would go home."
The explanation was similar for Vila's non-selection in the Giro team, which was made official yesterday. "At the start we had thought about him riding – he was among the 12 original names – but since he was sick in the Ardennes we preferred to have him on the programme with Damiano Cunego, which is Tour de Suisse and Tour de France," said Appiani.
Testosterone analyses is always problematic, because the parameters for its measurement are difficult to handle, as seen in the cases of Spain's Iban Mayo and American Floyd Landis.