• Bora-hansgrohe at the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné (Getty)Source: Getty
The manager of German cycling team BORA-Hansgrohe has raised concern about COVID-19 testing ahead of the Tour de France after pulling his team out of the Bretagne Classic on Tuesday because of a ‘false positive’.

26 Aug 2020 - 9:56 AM 

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BORA-Hansgrohe withdrew all of its riders from the race after one team member was notified of a positive test for COVID-19 before Tuesday’s Bretagne Classic.

However, in a later statement the team said the rider had been tested again and the result had been negative.

“It looks like my concerns are being confirmed,” team boss Ralph Denk said in a statement.

“It is known that PCR tests have a certain rate of error and thus produce false positive results. This in itself would not be a problem, if there were the possibility to check the results immediately in the case of a positive finding.”

When riders are tested for doping an A and B sample is used and Denk believes a similar system should be used to make sure COVID-19 tests are accurate — especially when the stakes are so high.

Two positive COVID-19 tests at the Tour de France will mean that a team would be withdrawn from the race.

“(In anti-doping tests) an A Sample and a B Sample are provided, precisely for this reason. If the A Sample is positive, the result is checked with the B Sample,” Denk, whose team is the first to pull out of a WorldTour race after a positive COVID-19 test, said.

“In the UCI’s current testing strategy, this verification is not present. We are talking about athletes who have prepared for a race for weeks or months and then might not be allowed to start the event due to a false finding.”

With the Tour set to start in Nice on Saturday, Denk has called on immediate adjustments to the testing protocols.

“We also require certainty regarding testing procedures and strategy,” he said. “If we don’t have this, we will soon have serious issues, because who wants to invest in a lottery game as a serious company?”

Cycling governing body the UCI has yet to comment on Denk’s concerns.

Two positives and you're out: Teams unhappy with Tour COVID-19 protocols
Two positive coronavirus cases in a seven-day period will see teams kicked off the Tour de France, organisers have confirmed and teams are unhappy. The news comes after a false-positive case emerged at the Dutch national championships over the weekend.

This is not the only recent false-positive test. Canadian Hugo Houle has been selected for Astana's Tour de France team after he was initially excluded due to a positive test. Houle was tested a further three times - two PCR and one antigen - and they all came back negative. 

Dutch rider Inge van der Heijden withdrew from the Dutch national championships last weekend after she tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the race also forcing two of her team mates Yara Kastelijn and Aniek van Alphen due to safety protocols.

However, in a post on her Instagram account last Sunday, van der Heijden said she had another test on Saturday 22 August which returned a negative result. 

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