ROME -- Former Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca was banned from cycling for life Thursday following a third doping offense, joining Lance Armstrong as one of the highest profile riders to be kicked out of the sport.
The Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping court issued the verdict after the 37-year-old Di Luca tested positive for the blood booster EPO in a surprise test in April, five days before this year's Giro.
"It's certainly not very nice,'' Di Luca said. "It makes me think that I have to pay for everyone. ... Now we'll decide whether to appeal. Anyhow, I'm already doing other (work).''
The ban matched the request from CONI's anti-doping prosecutor Tammaro Maiello. Di Luca was also fined more than $50,000.
After a hearing with the prosecutor in September, Di Luca did not deny doping, saying that the case "doesn't change much" for his fans.
Still, Di Luca could appeal to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Last year, Armstrong was banned for life by the United States Anti-Doping Association and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping.
The Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad fired Di Luca immediately after his latest positive test was announced with the Giro nearly finished.
"Whatever I won in cycling I won with my own skills. I never won anything I couldn't win,'' Di Luca said. "For example, I never won a time trial at 60 kph (37 mph), whereas others have and maybe still do.''
In 2009, Di Luca was given a two-year ban after testing positive during the Giro for CERA, an advanced form of EPO. That ban was subsequently reduced by nine months after he collaborated with Italian anti-doping authorities.
And a short time after winning the 2007 Giro, Di Luca was banned for three months for frequent visits to Carlo Santuccione, a physician at the center of a four-year doping investigation titled Oil for Drugs.
Di Luca was stripped of his second-place finish and two stage wins in the 2009 Giro, which was won by Russian rider Denis Menchov.
Seemingly headed for retirement just a few months before this year's Giro, Di Luca signed with Vini Fantini in April -- a week before the race began. He fared well in several stages of the Italian classic, with four top-10 finishes.
His results from this year's Giro will now be stripped.
Among Di Luca's other victories were single-day classics like the Giro di Lombardia in 2001, the Amstel Gold Race in 2005, the Walloon Arrow in 2005 and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2007.