Apr 13, 2016 – Italian cyclist Luca Paolini was on Wednesday banned for 18 months after testing positive for cocaine at last year’s Tour de France, cycling’s ruling body the UCI announced.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

The suspension relates to the 39-year-old’s failed dope test for the recreational drug on July 7 2015 which triggered his sacking by Katusha.

The UCI said Paolini was “guilty of a non-intentional” anti-doping rule violation. He was provisionally banned three day after his failed test, so if the suspension is applied from that date he can return to the peloton in January 2017.

The cyclist, who started his career in the peloton in 2000 with Mapei-QuickStep, won one stage in the 2013 Tour of Italy and another stage in the 2006 Tour of Spain.

Paolini was the second Katusha team member to fail drug tests within a year. In February the Russian outfit suspended Eduard Vorganov after he tested positive for meldonium, which boosts oxygen supply to the blood and tissues in the body.

Despite those cases the UCI said on February 8 that Katusha would not have their licence suspended. In another case, Italian Mattia Gavazzi of the Amore&Vitta team also tested positive for cocaine, the third time in his career, and was provisionally suspended by the UCI.

Professional since 2006, the 32-year-old Gavazzi served a 14-month ban in 2004 when riding as an amateur and saw out a two-and-a-half year ban after a second positive test 2010, reduced from six years after he collaborated with Italian Olympic Committee investigators.