Two UCI Gran Fondo Champions suspended for suspected EPO doping
Two Spanish cyclists have been suspended following anti-doping tests, suspected EPO use
45-year-old Spanish cyclist Raúl Portillo was crowned UCI Gran Fondo champion in the Time Trial and Gran Fondo in 2018.
The other rider named is 36-year-old Basque rider José Antonio Larrea.
EPO, short for erythropoietin, is used to increase the number of red blood cells and hence oxygen supply to the body, which is performance enhancing.
Portillo won in the 45-49 age category group at the 2018 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Varese. He was also fastest overall by covering the 22.5 kilometre Time Trial course in 28 minutes 15 seconds, an average speed of 46.7kph.
Portillo trains regularly in Andorra and rides for the Norinver Cycling Team.
Portillo won the 2018 Three Days of Mallorca masters race, attended by a host of masters racers worldwide.
He also won Spanish races, the Volta a la Marina Alta-Parcent and the Trofeo Ayunt.Pielagos-Carandia in 2018.
Both of the riders were subject to targeted testing and that “authorities were alerted by their victories.”
Portillo is rumoured to have stated "I can only tell you that in the last control I took, they tell me that it is positive. I do not agree with this and I am waiting for the report of the result and the analysis of the sample.”
Both riders have been suspended by the Basque Anti-Doping Agency (AVA) and internationally this suspension is supported by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
A 2015 report by the UCI’s Independent Commission for Reform in Cycling stated that: “Masters races were said to have middle-aged businessmen winning on EPO, with some of them training as hard as professional riders and putting in comparable performances.”
The report also stated that professional riders avoided Gran Fondos “because they were so competitive due to the number of riders doping”.
Both suspended riders have the right for their B samples to be tested.
Officially both riders are innocent until proven guilty and all doping tests follow strict rules and guidelines. The sustance for which they have been suspended for, is officially "unidentified".
Rumours in the Spanish press point to EPO as the substance.
More on this story to follow in due course ...