EF Education-Nippo’s Jonas Rutsch was forced to miss Sunday’s GP Cycliste La Marseillaise after a pre-race COVID-19 test resulted positive, with his early season racing at risk depending on the outcome of a further test on Monday.
The team said the 23-year-old German “returned a positive result in one of the team’s internal controls Saturday”.
Rutsch was said to be asymptomatic and the WorldTour team placed him into insolation at the team’s hotel in Nîmes in the south of France. EF Education-Nippo revealed that a team staffer also returned what was categorized as an “inconclusive” test. They were also placed in isolation.
Rutsch had spent time with the team at a pre-season training camp in the Var region of the South of France. He joined EF after winning the 2019 Under 23 version of Gent-Wevelgem and impressed by joining the decisive attack at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad only to be distanced while trying to remove a rain cape.
Both Rutsch and the staff member were re-tested Sunday and returned negative controls, possibly indicating an initial false positive test.
Officials said the pair remained isolated in a team hotel in Nîmes, and will be re-tested Monday, along with the rest of the team that raced Sunday.
An investigation by Cyclingnews before last year’s Tour de France revealed exactly how and why false positives are possible.
Cyclingnews spoke to Ranga Sampath, PhD, the Chief Scientific Officer with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a non-profit that conducted independent evaluations of almost 800 different COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
Sampath explained that no test is perfect and human error and problems with testing materials will always lead to some level of mistakes.
“Any test has a low but not improbable chance of false positive,” he said. “Even a test that is more than 99 per cent specific.”
EF Education-Nippo have yet to communicate the outcome of Monday’s tests.