Schleck defence begins with poisoning claim

Frank Schleck, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, Tour de France, doping, xipamide
Defensive ... Frank Schleck cannot explain how he tested positive to a diuretic today (Getty Images)

Frank Schleck has claimed poisoning is behind the positive test for a diuretic that saw him ejected from the Tour de France today on the orders of his team, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek.

I categorically deny having taken any banned substance. I cannot therefore explain the test result ... complaints will be filed against unknown poisoning.

In a statement, published by RTL Television in Schleck’s native Luxembourg, the brother of 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck confirmed he’d tested positive and wanted his B sample to be tested also, while alluding to an apparent case of sabotage.

“A doctor from the UCI has just informed me this evening that a prohibited substance was detected in my urine during a routine anti-doping control,” the statement read.

“I categorically deny having taken any banned substance. I cannot therefore explain the test result and therefore I insist to see a test of my sample B, which is my right.

“If this analysis confirms the initial result, complaints will be filed against unknown poisoning.”

Whom Schleck blames for the poisoning remains unclear, but his Tour de France is over for 2012.

The drama started in the early hours of this morning (AEST) when news filtered through from the International Cycling Union (UCI) that Schleck had tested positive for the diuretic xipamide.

RadioShack-Nissan-Trek spokesman Philippe Maertens confirmed the news, adding: "Frank Schleck went voluntarily to the police office. He is currently being questioned by police."

The team claimed in a statement that it knew nothing of Schleck’s ingestion of the substance.

"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 read.

“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 are not performance-enhancing in themselves, but 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.

Aside from the contamination claim, Schleck also has a good 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.

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