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Bora-Hansgrohe rider tests negative for COVID-19 hours after positive test

VILLADIEGO SPAIN JULY 29 Lukas Pstlberger of Austria and Team BoraHansgrohe Matteo Fabbro of Italy and Team BoraHansgrohe Lennard Kmna of Germany and Team BoraHansgrohe Jay Mc Carthy of Australia and Team BoraHansgrohe Rafal Majka of Poland and Team BoraHansgrohe Felix Grossschartner of Austria and Team BoraHansgrohe Purple Leader Jersey Peloton Landscape during the 42nd Vuelta a Burgos 2020 Stage 2 a 168km stage from Castrojeriz to Villadiego VueltaBurgos on July 29 2020 in Villadiego Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Bora-Hansgrohe at the Vuelta a Burgos (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider who on Tuesday morning tested positive for COVID-19 has now tested negative for the virus, the team has announced.

Bora-Hansgrohe were forced to withdraw from the Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France following the test result on Tuesday. All riders and staff on the team tested negative later, including the unnamed rider.

The news follows similar scenarios involving Astana's Hugo Houle and U23 world cyclo-cross champion Inge van der Heijden, who both tested positive then negative after taking PCR tests in the last week.

"This rider was since tested again during the day and (as was the case with his 6-day test) it came back negative," read the press release issued by Bora-Hansgrohe.

"All other riders and staff were also immediately tested again, and all results were negative. It is reasonable to conclude that this was a false positive test result."

In response to the news, Bora-Hansgrohe team manager Ralph Denk raised doubts about the UCI's testing strategy, raising the idea that COVID-19 testing could follow the method used in anti-doping tests, with an A sample and B sample used to confirm test results.

"It looks like my concerns are being confirmed," Denk said. "It is known that PCR tests have a certain rate of error and thus produce false positive results. This in itself would not be a problem, if there were the possibility to check the results immediately in the case of a positive finding.

"In the anti-doping regulations, an A Sample and a B Sample are provided, precisely for this reason. If the A Sample is positive, the result is checked with the B Sample. In the UCI’s current testing strategy, this verification is not present. Anti-doping labs are also accredited, which means that certain standards are set and checked. That would be one approach."

The possibility of false positive forcing riders into quarantine and thus missing major races is a problem, especially given that the Tour de France is just days away. Tour organiser ASO recently confirmed that two positive cases would mean a team would have to leave the race.

Bora-Hansgrohe are the first team to miss out on a WorldTour race after a positive COVID-19 test. Israel Start-Up Nation withdrew several riders from the Vuelta a Burgos after they had been in contact with teammate Itamar Einhorn, who had tested positive. All riders later returned negative results.

"We are talking about athletes who have prepared for a race for weeks or months and then might not be allowed to start the event due to a false finding," Denk said.

"Today we withdrew our entire team from a WordTour race. It's all about points, but it's also about presence in the media, in other words, the advertising value upon which the commitments of our sponsors are based. Today, these benefits were unable to be gained.

"Of course, the health of everyone involved should and must always take priority, however, it is still unsatisfactory that consideration is not given to all other aspects. I think adjustments must be immediately made here.

"We also require certainty regarding testing procedures and strategy. If we don't have this, we will soon have serious issues, because who wants to invest in a lottery game as a serious company?"

In addition to the cases of Bora-Hansgrohe, Israel Start-Up Nation, Houle and Van der Heijden, several other riders have been affected by the virus since the season restarted. Last week, Larry Warbasse (AG2R La Mondiale) tested positive, while his teammate Silvan Dilier did so before Strade Bianche, missing out on the Italian race as a result.

Team Ineos rider Leonardo Basso returned a positive test at the weekend, leading to the squad withdrawing their riders from Sunday's Italian National Championships road race.