Samuel Sanchez, the former Olympic champion from Spain, has been suspended with immediate effect after testing positive for banned growth hormones, according to an announcement by the world governing body of cycling.

The 39-year-old Sanchez, who won the 2008 Olympic road race in Beijing and five individual stages in the Vuelta a Espana between 2005 and 2007 as well as an individual stage on the 2011 Tour de France, will now miss this year’s Vuelta that begins on Saturday in France.

In a statement, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said on its website that Samuel Sanchez had been notified of an “Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) of GHRP-2” from an out-of-competition test on August 9th. The UCI added Sanchez has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample in accordance with UCI Anti-Doping Rules. It added the rider has been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the affair.

The governing body also remarked the doping control was planned and carried out by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, the independent body mandated by the UCI, in charge of defining and implementing the anti-doping strategy in cycling.

GHRP-2 refers to GH-Releasing Peptides (GHRPs) that are classified as “Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances, and Mimetics” on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s 2017 Prohibited List. It is commonly used to increase lean body mass, reduce fat, and improve aerobic performance.

Team BMC Racing of Sanchez immediately announced his suspension and announced the rider would be replaced by Loic Vliegen in the Vuelta. In a statement, BMC said Sanchez has been provisionally suspended with immediate effect in accordance with BMC Racing Team’s zero tolerance policy and UCI regulation. The statement also reads that no further action will be taken until the results of the B sample are provided. The team also commented that all riders and staff are held to the highest ethical standard and BMC Racing Team is extremely disappointed to share this news on the eve of the Vuelta a Espana.

Sanchez vehemently denied doping allegations and remarked the positive test was a ‘total surprise.’ The cyclist added the lawyers have told him not to make statements because we have to wait for the result of the analysis of the B sample. The 2008 Olympic Road Race Champion said he is nearing the end of his professional career and it makes no sense for him to dope at this stage.

Sanchez, who turned pro in 2000 and who has been riding for BMC Racing since 2014, was expected to announce his retirement after Vuelta a Espana. BMC re-signed Sanchez for the 2015 season and his role was described by the team’s sporting manager Allan Peiper as similar to that in 2014, but with a greater focus on supporting and developing the team’s younger riders. The Spanish professional road bicycle racer had proven himself in hilly classics and stage races as one of the most important riders in the peloton in recent years. Known as one of the best descenders in the peloton, Sanchez won the Vuelta a Burgos in 2010, the Tour of the Basque Country in 2012, and five stages of the Vuelta a España.

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