RadioShack-Nissan rider Frank Schleck was questioned by police on the fringes of the Tour de France after testing positive for the diuretic xipamide, his RadioShack-Nissan-Trek confirmed today.
(Xipamide) is not a product that is present in any of the medicine that the team uses and the reason for the presence of xipamide in the urine sample of Mr Schleck is unclear to the team. Therefore, the team is not able to explain the adverse findings at this point.
Schleck, who had already quit the race after being informed of the positive test, went to a local police station at Pau, where the Tour spent a rest day after Stage 15, of his own accord after being told police would be coming to take him in for questioning.
RadioShack-Nissan-Trek 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 11:30pm France time (7.30am AEST), although Maertens would not say whether the rider would return to the team hotel or fly home directly to Luxembourg.
Schleck's positive test for xipamide was announced earlier by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
The team confirmed 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.
The team, already embroiled in controversy over non-payment of wages to some of its riders, including Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara, wasted no time in withdrawing Schleck from the Tour.
A team statement read: "Even though an abnormal A sample does not require these measures, Mr Schleck and the team believe this is the right thing to do, to ensure the Tour de France can go on in calm and that Frank Schleck can prepare his defence in accordance with the legal timing to do so."
A statement from the UCI read that 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 Châtenay-Malabry) in the urine sample collected from him at an in competition test at the Tour de France on 14 July 2012".
Schleck had the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample, but that is unlikely now with him being taken out of the race by his team.
The UCI also indicated it expected Schleck to be immediately suspended from the race, in accordance with strict anti-doping rules in place.
"The UCI Anti-Doping Rules do not provide for a provisional suspension given the nature of the substance, which is a specified substance.
"However, the UCI is confident that his team will take the necessary steps to enable the Tour de France to continue in serenity and to ensure that their rider has the opportunity to properly prepare his defense in particular within the legal timeline, which allows four days for him to have his B sample analysed."
RadioShack-Nissan-Trek did pull Schleck out quickly, but denied any responsibility for the presence of the substance in his system.
"On the subject of xipamide the team can declare the following: it is not a product that is present in any of the medicine that the team uses and the reason for the presence of xipamide in the urine sample of Mr Schleck is unclear to the team,” its statement continued.
“Therefore, the team is not able to explain the adverse findings at this point.
"However, the team is fully determined to collaborate with the anti-doping agencies in order to resolve the matter."
Diuretics, it should be made clear, are not performance-enhancing in themselves, although they can be used to help riders lose weight, and therefore perform better in the tough mountain stages of the race.
Xipamide, a diuretic, is normally used for the treatment of oedema and hypertension.
Schleck has a chance of proving his innocence because xipamide falls into a special category of substances under the World Anti Doping Code called “specified substances”.
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".
After the second rest day, the race resumes tonight when the 16th stage takes the peloton over four major climbs towards a downhill finish at Bagneres-De-Luchon.
Schleck, whose younger brother Andy was awarded the race victory from 2010 after Spain's Alberto Contador was disqualified for doping but missed this year's race through injury, sits in 12th place at nine minutes and 45 sedconds off the pace of race leader Bradley Wiggins of Sky.