MADRID (AP) — Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana withdrew from the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday to defend himself against his disqualification from the Tour de France for misuse of an opioid banned during races.
The announcement came a day before the three-week Grand Tour race was scheduled to start. Quintana was already in the Netherlands for Friday’s first stage. He had initially said he would still compete in the Vuelta despite Wednesday’s notification from the International Cycling Union about his disqualification from the Tour de France.
“A few hours have passed and I’ve been able to reflect,” Quintana said on his social media accounts. “Right now I don’t have the mind or the body to compete even though I had said that I would be participating in the Spanish Vuelta. I’m still not in condition. I prefer to return home to organize and prepare my defense.”
The 32-year-old Quintana, the 2016 Vuelta champion, was set to lose the sixth-place finish he achieved last month at the Tour de France, though he was not banned from other races. The UCI said it was not a doping violation.
Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from Quintana during the Tour on July 8 and 13, the UCI said.
Quintana said he would return to competition at the end of the season. He had said he was surprised with the test results and denied ever using the substance during his career. Quintana said he and his lawyers would do everything possible to show his innocence. They would be appealing the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Quintana’s case is among the first in world sports to rely on the dried blood spot method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.
Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use during cycling competitions because of the potential side effects.
Quintana finished second at the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015. He also won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
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