Katusha rider took to Twitter to make a long apology after being notified of a positive test for benzoylecgonine metabolite on Friday

Luca Paolini (Katusha) took to Twitter late on Friday to publicly apologise, after he was notified that day by the UCI that he had returned a positive test for benzoylecgonine metabolite, better known as cocaine.

The adverse analytical finding was from an in-competition test on July 7 during the Tour de France, according to the UCI, with Paolini strongly denying he had taken the recreational drug, telling La Gazetta dello Sport: “I do not know what to say, I’m stunned. I did not take cocaine.”

The 38-year-old, who took victory in one-day Classic Ghent-Wevelgem this year, is the first rider since Frank Schleck in 2012 to return a positive test during the Tour, and was subsequently suspended by his team while the UCI investigates. Paolini has the right to attend the analysis of his B-sample, which he indicated he would do.

The Italian took part in Friday’s stage seven of the Tour, where he helped lead Alexander Kristoff to the sprint finish, which was eventually won by Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step). Paolini then took the time late after the stage to apologise to his teammates for the positive test.

“I am not the type who cries scandal and seeks useless loopholes,” he said.

“With success I take my responsibilities in full and try to do [so with] the utmost clarity! I apologise to all my fellow riders and certainly to the Tour de France, the ASO.

“Knowing that the time was not appropriate, especially with the high concentration of the media. I apologise to my fantastic Team Katusha teammates and I hope that my absence is not detrimental to a good end result.”

Paolini could now face anything up to a four-year ban if his B-sample tests positive as well, which could spell the end of his 15-year career.


Tour de France stage seven highlights


  • Brook Smith

    The toilet could be heard flushing in the background as the agents knocked on the door to take the blood sample.

  • Mark Emu Ealam

    Tom Boonen?

  • physeptone

    I bet the testers were rather confused by the result the machine gave out…. probably had to consult the manual! “Cocaine? We haven’t had anyone try to get away with that since the 1960s!”
    Benzoylecognine is the main metabolite of cocaine and is what you test for to detect cocaine use.

  • Mike Blaszczak

    What you’re saying is that it really is more important to publish the story than to make sure it is accurate. The shoddy fact checking and reporting that Cycling Weekly has shown is in this piece demonstrate they agree with you. Me, I expect something better.

  • Mike Blaszczak

    I’m not defending him. If you think I am, then you’ve misread my post. I’m just pointing out the factual error in the article. I haven’t a clue if Paolini used cocaine or not. I just know that cocaine is not the same substance as benzoylecgonine metabolite, as Richard Windsor has claimed.

  • Kevino Daviessss

    Mike, when he’s failed with the B sample, then he may call you as an expert witness! He’s dopped end of, why people like yourself try and defend these cheats whilst using anything from doctored meat to dodgy drinks then we have no hope with this sport.

    To fail a test at the worlds biggest race regardless of what he’s taken is criminal, any ban the negative publicity has brought again to cycling won’t mean a thing.

  • ummm…

    I think Mike made an important point about the nature of the substance, and how it relates to the riders defense. If the googled benzoblahblah I’m sure they could have found a bit more information. It would have made for a more interesting and informative article.

  • Ian Munro

    Assuming that’s not a rhetorical question, yes it probably is asking too much.
    You don’t need someone with a ‘science background’ you need at a guess someone with a pharmacological background, this person needs to be on 24/7 availability to vet doping stories. You also need specialists on call to vet all the other stories, all also on 24/7 availability.
    Not going to happen.

  • Mike Blaszczak

    Benzoylecgonine metabolite is not “better known as cocaine”. Benzoylecgonine is excreted by the liver when cocaine is metabolized by the human body, and ends up in urine.

    But there are other sources of benzoylecgonine, and it is used in other compounds than cocaine. Because of your assertion that benzoylecgonine is the same as cocaine, your readers won’t understand plausible and legitimate defenses that Paolini may have.

    Is it too much to ask to get someone with a science background to review stories about science?