Former professional racer and Brazilian national road champion Antonio “Pipo” Garnero, 39, has tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO) according to the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) and has been kicked-out of the 7-day 2022 Haute Route Alps amateur race while leading the overall general classification.

The Haute Route organizers released the following statement:

Garnero retired from the professional race circuit recently to focus on riding more leisurely and friendly amateur gran fondo races. He quickly achieved competitive success at gran fondos and won one of the hardest – the 2021 Haute Route Alps in France.

He returned to France this week to defend his title and was leading Haute Route Alps when word of his positive EPO test result and subsequent AFLD suspension from all competitive activity reached event organizers. Without hesitation, Haute Route immediately kicked him out of the event and removed him from all results.

On Strava, Garnero posted a note admitting he used EPO because of “pre-anemia,” a condition of decreased red blood cells that leads to fatigue and weakness.

“Friends, I was notified by the AFLD who reported my provisional suspension from all competitive activity due to an unfavorable analytical result for erythropoietin (EPO), a drug used to treat anemia, among other things.

He then offered the following explanation of why he took the banned performance enhancing drug:

Early this year, however, I decided to return to competition – this time exclusively amateur – at altitude. During my preparation, I had sensations that seemed to indicate a possible pre-anemic condition, confirmed by past tests. Hastily and thoughtlessly, in an act of desperation, I resorted to medication to try to raise my blood levels to the reference parameters. It was the first and only time I used the hormone…

Typically, medical doctors only prescribe EPO to treat anemia in patients suffering from severe chronic kidney failure or cancer patients going through chemotherapy treatment.

With only the final stage remaining before Haute Route Alps concludes in Megeve, France on Saturday, Italian Luca Vergalitto is now the overall leader by nine minutes over the Frenchman Loic Ruffaut.

Photos: Haute Route