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Italian cyclist Paolini banned 18 months in cocaine case

Le Tour de France 2015 - Stage Three

HUY, BELGIUM - JULY 06: Luca Paolini of Italy and Team Katusha crosses the finish line on stage three of the 2015 Tour de France, a 154km stage between Antwerp and Huy, on July 5, 2015 in Huy, Belgium. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

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AIGLE, Switzerland -- Italian cyclist Luca Paolini has been banned for 18 months after testing positive for cocaine at the Tour de France last year.

The UCI announced on Wednesday that Paolini was “guilty of a non-intentional anti-doping rule violation.”

Paolini acknowledged he used cocaine but said he didn’t do so with the intention of improving his cycling performance.

Paolini was thrown out of the Tour when the positive test was announced on July 10, three days after being tested on the day of the fourth stage. He was dismissed from Russian team Katusha.

With the ban dated retroactively to July 10, Paolini’s ban will end in January.

The 39-year-old Paolini won the Gent-Wevelgem one-day classic last season, and has stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta.