Double UCI Gran Fondo champion suspended following EPO finding

Two Spanish racers have been suspended following anti-doping tests, with sources stating that the substance used was EPO (erythropoietin).

The riders are 45-year-old four time Spanish masters champion Raúl Portillo, who was crowned UCI Gran Fondo champion in the time trial and road race disciplines in 2018, and 36-year-old Basque rider José Antonio Larrea.

Portillo won in the 40-45 age group at the 2018 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Varese, taking fastest overall by covering the 22.5 kilometre course in 28 minutes 15 seconds – an average speed of 46.7kph.

He also won the 2018 Three Days of Mallorca masters race, attended by a host of British masters racers.

Portillo, who trains regularly in Andorra, competed at the event riding for Norinver Cycling Team, and over the course of 2018 also won the Spanish races Volta a la Marina Alta-Parcent and Trofeo Ayunt.Pielagos-Carandia.

When Cycling Weekly reached out to Portillo, he commented: “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 of the riders were subject to targeted testing, and ciclo21.com reports that “authorities [were] alerted by their victories.”

The substance found is listed as ‘unspecified’, but El Correo Español reports that it was EPO.

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 Union Cycliste International (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”.

In 2017, Cycling Weekly ran a survey in which one in 20 amateur racers admitted to doping.

Both of the suspended riders have the right to ask for counter analysis of their samples.

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