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Axelsson positive for EPO, faces lifetime ban

Swedish rider Niklas Axelsson has tested positive for EPO for the second time in his career. The 36-year-old returned the positive control from a doping control conducted in September. He now faces a lifetime ban if the B-sample confirms the result.

He rode for the Polish Continental team Utensilnord Corratec in 2009.

Axelsson had previously tested positive in 2001 at the World Championships in Portugal. He was originally given a four-year suspension, but it was later reduced to two years and eight months.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed the most recent positive test, according to Swedish newspaper Sportsbladet. “According to the information I have, this is EPO. The reason we have not publicised it is that we are awaiting a decision on the B-sample," a UCI spokesperson said.

The Secretary General of the Swedish Cycling Federation, Anders Karlsson, also confirmed the report. “There is a positive A-sample from September,” he said. “It is a tragedy.”

Axelsson finished sixth overall in the Giro d'Italia in 1999. In 2000 he finished second overall in the Giro del Trentino and third in the Giro di Lombardia, while riding for Team Panaria-Gaerne.

He returned to riding in 2004 after his suspension, and rode for Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni from 2006 to 2008. In late 2006 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, from which he recovered after surgery.

Karlsson was particularly surprised to hear of the new positive control in light of the rider's prior positive, “he has been suspended before, and really suffered from it,” he said

Axelsson has not yet decided whether to have the B-sample tested. “It's up to the cyclist. But it's incredibly rare for a B-sample to show something different from the A-sample,” Karlsson noted.

After the rider decides whether to have the B-sample tested or waive that right, the federation's disciplinary committee will rule on the matter, with a lifetime ban a likely outcome.

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