UAE Team Emirates rider Kristijan Durasek was on Wednesday named as one of four European cyclists provisionally suspended for potential doping violations.
The International Cycling Union (UCI), acting on information from Austrian law enforcement authorities on Wednesday notified current riders Durasek and Kristijan Koren of Team Bahrain Merida, as well as former riders Alessandro Petacchi and Borut Bozic of potential Anti-Doping Rules Violations (ADRV) as part of the "Operation Aderlass" investigation.
The four are under investigation for employing prohibited doping methods between 2012 and 2017.
"The UCI and the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation [CADF] ... have been in close contact with the sport and state authorities involved in the Aderlass investigation, in particular with the World Anti-Doping Agency [Wada] and the Austrian law enforcement authorities," UCI said in a statement.
UAE Team Emirates have suspended 31-year-old Croatian Durasek, who was riding in the Tour of California, with the bombshell coming 24 hours after the team withdrew Colombian cyclist Juan Sebastian Molano from the ongoing Giro d'Italia after internal tests found "unusual physiological results".
"The Team hopes that Durasek can prove he was not involved in the affair. Should it be proven otherwise, he will be terminated immediately," UAE Team Emirates said in a statement.
Team Bahrain Merida have also provisionally suspended 32-year-old Koren and Bozic, who ended his cycling career last year and is assistant sports director at the team.
"The team strictly advocates zero-tolerance doping policy and has therefore provisionally suspended both members concerned," the Bahrain-based team said in a statement.
"We would like to stress that both cases relate to the 2012 and/or 2013 seasons. The team always carries out thorough medical checks (including biological passport checks) of any new signed rider."
Petacchi, who has won 48 Grand Tour stages, including 22 on the Giro d'Italia, retired in 2015 and has denied the allegations outright.
"I never had a blood transfusion and I have no idea why I'm being connected with this case," the 45-year-old told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Operation Aderlass is looking into blood doping, a process where athletes have blood transfusions to increase their stamina and performance, a method prohibited under Wada regulations.
The provisional suspension begins on the day of the notice and a UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal will be established to hear the anti-doping rules violations.