South African cycling was "devastated" and "cheated" on Friday when it was announced that young star Herman Fouche had been banned for two years after failing a doping test.
Samples taken after the Pick n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge on November 16 last year showed Fouche had taken epitestosterone, which is used as a masking agent to hide high levels of testosterone.
Fouche, who had been riding for the Konica-Minolta squad last year, finished second behind Malcolm Lange in the Cycle Challenge.
He was informed of the positive findings on January 26 after a lengthy process.
"Fouche tested positive on November 16 and the test samples were analysed in Bloemfontein and Cologne, Germany. Fouche was informed of the positive findings on January 26 and at a hearing that took place on February 11, he was found guilty and subsequently suspended for two years," read a joint statement by Cycling South Africa and Team Neotel, Fouche's sponsor for 2009.
Team Neotel management and riders said yesterday they were "blown away" at the news, having trusted Fouche implicitly when he signed for them this year.
One team insider said he felt "betrayed" by the 22-year old, a feeling echoed by team owner Eugene Ruiters: "I am still in shock; I received the call on Friday from CSA who informed us that Herman had been suspended.
"Herman joined our team as a new recruit last month and we had no idea he was being investigated.
"Team Neotel has always maintained a zero tolerance policy towards doping. We have relieved him of his duties with immediate effect. Our record in the sport, since our inception in 2003, has been spotless.
"We are confident that this is an isolated incident and that no-one else is involved in this situation.
"The riders in our team are tested on a regular basis by the relevant authorities."
Fouche, who won the Pick n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge in 2007, had been victorious in the Pick n Pay The Star Fast One, the race co-sponsored by the Saturday Star's sister paper, and the Emperors Palace Classic last weekend.