Luca Paolini has been handed a 18-month ban by the UCI after testing positive for cocaine during last year’s Tour de France. He has the right to appeal the decision but his former team, Katusha, have confirmed that they will not take him back after nullifying his contract last year.
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal has rendered its decision in the case involving Luca Paolini,” a statement on the UCI’s website said.
“The Anti-Doping Tribunal found the rider guilty of a non-intentional anti-doping rule violation (presence of a cocaine metabolite - benzoylecgonine) and imposed an 18-month period of ineligibility on the rider. In accordance with the Procedural Rules of the Anti-Doping Tribunal, the decision will shortly be published on the UCI website.”
The 39-year-old faced the possibility of a two-year ban when his hearing took place in March. It was one of the first cases heard by the UCI’s Anti-Doping Tribunal.
Cocaine is classified as a banned substance in competition under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code but athletes are not banned if they test positive for the social drug out of competition. Paolini has claimed he took cocaine at a personal training camp in June and claimed it occurred at a low point in his life after several years of addiction to the sleeping medicine Minias (Benzodiazepine).
Since being suspended from racing following his A-sample test, Paolini has undergone treatment for his addiction to the sleeping medication. In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport in December he revealed he had been addicted to the drug for a number of years, despite managing to win Gent-Wevelgem and continue a successful career with Katusha.
“We are happy that there’s now been a decision but for us it doesn’t change anything for the team because we terminated his contract last year. At a certain point he admitted to us that he took cocaine and that’s really against our team rules. He still has the right to go to appeal but it doesn’t change things for us. We have strict anti-doping policy,” a Katusha spokesperson told Cyclingnews.