Cycling

Cyclist Danilo Di Luca banned for life for doping

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ROME (AP)

Former Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca was banned from cycling for life Thursday following a third doping offense, joining Lance Armstrong as one of the highest profile riders to be kicked out of the sport.

The Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping court issued the verdict after the 37-year-old Di Luca tested positive for the blood booster EPO in a surprise test in April, five days before this year's Giro.

''It's certainly not very nice,'' Di Luca said. ''It makes me think that I have to pay for everyone. ... Now we'll decide whether to appeal.''

The ban matched the request from CONI's anti-doping prosecutor Tammaro Maiello. Di Luca was also fined more than $50,000.

After a hearing with the prosecutor in September, Di Luca did not deny doping, saying that the case ''doesn't change much'' for his fans.

Still, Di Luca could appeal to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Last year, Armstrong was banned for life by the United States Anti-Doping Association and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping.

The Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad fired Di Luca immediately after his latest positive test was announced with the Giro nearly finished.

''Whatever I won in cycling I won with my own skills. I never won anything I couldn't win,'' Di Luca said. ''For example, I never won a time trial at 60 kph, whereas others have and maybe still do.''

In 2009, Di Luca was given a two-year ban after testing positive during the Giro for CERA, an advanced form of EPO. That ban was subsequently reduced by nine months after he collaborated with Italian anti-doping authorities.

And a short time after winning the 2007 Giro, Di Luca was banned for three months for frequent visits to Carlo Santuccione, a physician at the center of a four-year doping investigation titled Oil for Drugs.

Di Luca was stripped of his second-place finish and two stage wins in the 2009 Giro, which was won by Russian rider Denis Menchov.

Seemingly headed for retirement just a few months before this year's Giro, Di Luca signed with Vini Fantini in April - a week before the race began. He fared well in several stages of the Italian classic, with four top-10 finishes.

His results from this year's Giro will now be stripped.

Italy national team coach Paolo Bettini commented on Di Luca's trial shortly before the sentence.

''Danilo is a friend of mine and we raced together,'' Bettini said. ''You can mistakes in life, and then you can make more mistakes, as he has demonstrated.''

Among Di Luca's other victories were single-day classics like the Giro di Lombardia in 2001, the Amstel Gold Race in 2005, the Walloon Arrow in 2005 and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2007.

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Follow Andrew Dampf at http://twitter.com/asdampf

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