Swiss rider Thomas Frei has been provisionally suspended from competition by his BMC Racing Team following a positive test for banned blood booster EPO.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirmed on Thursday that Frei failed a test for erythropoietin (EPO) in March.

Frei was riding in the Giro del Trentino in Italy and was lying in sixth overall when the announcement was made. He withdrew from the race and did not start Thursday’s third stage.

BMC team president Jim Ochowicz said in a statement: “It has come to our attention that Thomas Frei has been informed that he was tested A-positive regarding the use of EPO.

“As a consequence, the BMC racing team and its members have made the decision to withhold Thomas Frei from competition, in accordance with the BMC racing team’s own policy

“This should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt. The rider will now have to personally address the accusation.”

It’s another blow to the American BMC Racing Team after two of its Italian riders, Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio, were suspended from racing by the squad due to their involvement in the Mantova doping investigation.

BMC is presented with a team selection headache for the forthcoming Giro d’Italia (May 8-30), where Cadel Evans will be vying for the overall classification. World Champion Evans provided BMC with its only win so far this season on Wednesday with a victory at Fleche Wallonne in Belgium.

Two further riders have also been provisionally suspended by the UCI this week – China’s Li Fuyu (RadioShack) tested positive for Clenbuterol at Dwaars Door Vlaanderen on March 23 and Italian Mattia Gavazzi (Colnago CSF-Inox) tested positive for cocaine at Settimana Lombarda on March 31.

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