PAU, France 18th July – Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, a former podium finisher, was questioned by police on the fringes of the Tour de France Tuesday after testing positive for a banned diuretic, his RadioShack team said.
Schleck, who had already quit the race after being informed of the positive test, went to a local police station of his own accord after being told police would be coming to take him in for questioning, according to RadioShack.
RadioShack spokesman Philippe Maertens said: “Frank Schleck went voluntarily to the police office. He is currently being questioned by police.”
It is widely believed the move was to avoid police raiding the team’s hotel.
Schleck left the police station before 1130 pm local time, although Maertens would not say whether the rider would return to the tean hotel or fly home directly to Luxembourg.
Schleck’s positive test for the banned diuretic Xipamide was announced earlier by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
RadioShack confirmed to AFP earlier that “Schleck has left the race”. Maertens added that “if his B sample tests positive he would be suspended by the team”, while awaiting further investigation.
Maertens also said Schleck had “spoken to” team manager Johan Bruyneel, but would not reveal the content of their exchange.
A statement released earlier by the team said: “Our team attaches great value to transparency. Because of this… the team has decided to immediately withdraw Frank Schleck from the Tour de France.”
Earlier, the UCI said 32-year-old Schleck had been informed of an “Adverse Analytical Finding (presence of the diuretic Xipamide based on the report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry) in the urine sample collected from him at an in competition test at the Tour de France on 14 July 2012.”
Schleck “has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample”, added the UCI. RadioShack said the substance “was not present in any of the medicine that the team uses”.
Because Xipamide falls into a special category of substances under the World Anti Doping Code called ‘Specified Substances’, Schleck has a chance to prove his innocence.
The Code states that when an “athlete can establish that the use of such a specified substance was not intended to enhance sport performance, the period of ineligibility… shall be replaced with the following.”
For a first violation athletes face anything from “a reprimand” or, at most, a “one year’s ineligiblity”.
A second violation would incur “two years ineligibility”, in other words a two-year ban, while a third violation would incur a “lifetime ban”.
The UCI explained: “The UCI Anti-Doping Rules do not provide for a provisional suspension given the nature of the substance, which is a specified substance.”
RadioShack, meanwhile, said it was “the right thing to do” to take Schleck off the race “to ensure the Tour de France can go on calmly and that Frank Schleck can prepare his defence in accordance with the legal timing to do so”.
The UCI said Schleck was allowed “four days for him to have his B sample analysed”.
Diuretics are not considered performance-enhancing but can be used to help riders lose weight, and therefore perform better in the tough mountain stages of the race.
More ominously, they can also conceal the presence of a banned drug by helping to flush it from the body through increased urination. Xipamide, a diuretic, is normally used for the treatment of oedema and hypertension.
Schleck, whose younger brother Andy was awarded the race victory from 2010 after Spain’s Alberto Contador was disqualified for doping, was in 12th place at 9:45 off the pace of race leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain.
After the second rest day Tuesday, the race resumes Wednesday when the 16th stage takes the peloton over four major climbs towards a downhill finish at Bagneres-De-Luchon.
Last week Frenchman Remy Di Gregorio of Cofidis quit the race after calls to a supplier of doping products were intercepted by and acted upon by police.