The UCI has confirmed that the winner of this year's Vuelta a San Juan, Gonzalo Najar, failed a doping test at the January race, along with his teammate and fellow Argentinian, Gaston Emiliano Javier.
The news was reported by the Argentinian website Ciclismo Internacional on Sunday, with the UCI issuing a statement on Monday morning, explaining that the doping controls were "intelligence-led".
Najar tested positive for CERA, a 'third-generation' form of EPO, on January 21 - the day of the opening stage of the 2018 Vuelta a San Juan. He went on to win the mountain stage to Alto de Colorado by nearly two minutes, and then sealed the overall title ahead of the likes of Oscar Sevilla, Rafal Majka, and Tiesj Benoot.
Najar has not raced on the road at international level since the Vuelta a San Juan, and was training with the Argentinian team head of the Pan-American Games this week until he was notified of his positive test.
Javier, a teammate of Najar's at the Sindicato de Empleados Publicos de San Juan team, tested positive for Anabolic Androgenic Steroids on January 23, the day of the stage 3 individual time trial.
Both riders have been provisionally suspended but may now request analysis of their B sample before a final verdict is reached. Should Najar be sanctioned, he would be stripped of his 2018 Vuelta a San Juan title, which would pass to Sevilla.
In addition to the individual punishments, the whole SEP San Juan team also faces suspension, with UCI rules providing for a period of 15-45 days inactivity in the event of two positive tests within the same team in a 12-month period. The matter has been passed on to the UCI's disciplinary commission for a final ruling.
For indications of the possible length of ban for Najar and Javier themselves, there are already precedents from the 2018 Vuelta a San Juan itself. Ezequiel Falon, the Argentinian who rode for the Rawson team and finished third last, this week received a four-year ban for Anabolic Androgenic Steroids, while the Uruguayan Ignacio Maldonado, who finished 13th, was banned for three years and nine months for CERA.
The number of positive tests from this year's Vuelta a San Juan stands at four, in what is a significant blow to the credibility of the race in its second edition as a UCI category 2.1 international event. It's a similar story for South American cycling as a whole, with multiple positive tests at last year's national tours of Colombia, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.
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