International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour team Katusha face the prospect of a suspension for between 15 and 45 days after Russian rider Eduard Vorganov was provisionally suspended for a doping violation.
The 33-year-old was notified of an adverse analytical finding for the meldonium, a hormone and metabolic modulators, following an out-of-competition test on January 14.
Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances on January 1 after they found “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”.
Vorganov still can request a B-sample to be analysed.
The positive test comes after fellow Katusha rider Luca Paolini was suspended on July 10 following an adverse analytical finding for cocaine, which is banned in but not out of competition, on stage three of the 2015 Tour de France.
Paolini admitted to using the substance and revealed an addiction to sleeping pills in December.
He is currently having his case heard by the UCI’s independent Anti-Doping Tribunal, a body established in 2014 to prevent National Federations giving their athletes favourable judgements.
Katusha have now had two positive test within their WorldTour team in a 12-month period and they could be temporarily suspended by the UCI’s Disciplinary Commission.
The team is owned by Russian businessman Igor Makarov, who is a member of the UCI Management Committee and was a major backer of Brian Cookson's campaign to become the UCI President in 2013.
According to article 7.12.1 of the UCI’s Anti-Doping Rules the team “shall be suspended from participation in any International Event for a period determined by the President of the UCI Disciplinary Commission or a member of the Disciplinary Commission, taking into account all the circumstances of the case”.
The period of the suspension would not be for less than 15 days or over 45 days, with the decision of the Commission coming into force immediately.
In the event Katusha are suspended, they would be able to appeal to lift the sanction if they can establish that either at least one anti-doping rule violation has no reasonable prospect of being upheld, if at least one rider bears no fault or negligence for the violation or the violation was committed by a rider with no involvement of the team.
In a statement, Katusha claimed meldonium has never been used by the team and was not provided to the Vorganov,.
The Russian has been suspended from all team activities.
“In the event that Eduard Vorganov took this product on his own initiative, Team Katusha will conduct an investigation as such conduct is in breach of the Team’s strict medical and anti-doping internal rules,” Katusha said.
“Team Katusha would like to emphasise that it takes all possible measures in order to avoid anti-doping rule violations within its team and is fully committed to fight doping.
“Team Katusha is obviously extremely disappointed that a situation like this could occur despite these measures.”
It is not the first time Katusha have faced potential disciplinary proceedings from the UCI, with their governing body, then led by Pat McQuaid, attempted to withhold their licence in 2013.
Eventually the UCI were forced to pay compensation after Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in favour of the Russian team, claiming "the decision to deny the registration for 2013 appears to be grossly disproportionate".
In November, Ivan Lutsenko and Andrey Lukonin, who ride for Katusha’s junior team Itera-Katusha, received suspensions following anti-doping violations.