Mikel Astarloza has been handed a two-year ban from competition by the Spanish Cycling Federation for the use of Erythropoietin (EPO). The Spaniard, who tested positive for the illegal blood booster in a control conducted 25 days before he won a stage at the 2009 Tour de France, said he will appeal the decision.
“I keep reaffirming my innocence and therefore I strongly disagree with the penalty imposed, and will appeal this sanction to the proper authorities,” he said on his website. “I hope that my innocence will finally be recognised and I have the hope of returning to racing as soon as possible.”
Astaloza was provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on July 31, 2009. He had tested positive for EPO in a control conducted on June 26, 2009. A subsequent analysis of his B sample also returned a positive result last September. Throughout the case, 30 year-old Astarloza has continued to has maintain his innocence.
Even after the official suspension was handed out, his team, Euskaltel-Euskadi, has continued to support its rider. The Basque squad said they will respect the penalty imposed and comply with relevant UCI and Anti-doping regulations, however, they expect Astarloza to return to the team in the future.
Calling the resolution of the case “not definite”, given Astarloza's staunch assertion of his innocence, the team said: “We hope that the rider can prove his innocence. After the period of the penalty (…) we expect the rider to return to competition.”
Astarloza won the 16th stage to Bourg-Saint-Maurice at the 2009 Tour de France. He finished the race in 11th position overall.