Juan Pablo Villegas - photo by AlpsandAndes.com
  • Paolo

    I remember a few years ago when 6 or 7 guys from the top ten GC in the Tour of Columbia went positive. But as always, it’s just the guys at the bottom that dope. Not the ones on the top ;-)

    • Chris

      Certainly not the guys at the top who go home for months at a time to train because the atmosphere there is more conducive to… well, you know.

      • donncha

        Yawn!

        You mean like Quintana who came up through the ranks on the same Colombian team as Villegas, which paid for its own biopassport and which adamantly refused to dope?

        • Chris

          That would be him, yep.

          • Shane Stokes

            Hey folks, the piece deals with what we know – that there is a big issue domestically. As for the top guys, I’ve mentioned that they went through the 472 programme when they were young and there was a bio passport there. That started them out on the right road. I haven’t spoken about them now at all, because it would be speculation.

          • Neuron1

            I’m pretty sure that the only Columbian with a shady biopassport history rides for the team in black and blue. We are still waiting for the explanation from the UK academics on this one.

    • Samaway

      Yeah, 10 years behind in anti-doping infrastructure and dope

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  • Andy

    There are definitely two paths for Colombian cyclists. You have your eyes set on Europe so you follow a cleaner path, or get out of Colombia early, like Uran. Or you are content to be a star in Colombia and follow the path of what we see here.

    Now I’m not saying Europe is clean, but you can’t dope like it’s the 90’s there. Here you can.

    I live in Colombia and the sheer use of drugs is astounding. It’s not even just top racers, or even racers – but a quick look through strava and you can start to see what’s going on. It’s absolutely insane.

    I rode with one of the top pros in Colombia one day and within ten minutes he has inquired about my “recovery” and offered me help if I so desired. TEN MINUTES!

    I will say this about the habits of the top euro guys, Nairo, Betancur, etc. of coming back often. Colombian culture is much different from ours, and to be separated from your family is excruciating in ways we can’t understand. Family is everything here. There are guys here, absolutely top talents, who won’t go to Europe because of this. I’m pretty sure this has been the reason for most of Betancur’s problems, and all of the guys speak of this. I’m not going to be naive about our sports problems, but I’ll bet you this is 95% the reason for their returns to Colombia.

    • Shane Stokes

      Thank you for this comment, Andy – it puts things in context. The fact that people might automatically presume a nefarious reason for long periods at home by the big pros is another reason why the federation needs to clean things up. As long as things are as bad there, then some will suspect the worst rather than thinking about family, etc.

      • David Marin

        hey, Shane, here´s the video with captions in english:

        https://youtu.be/E_bDRSCnvh4

        and my 2 cents: Quintana, Chaves, Urán… they all need to keep their Adams up to date and get tested just as regularly here, in Colombia, as they get when they are abroad. so no one needs to raise unfounded suspicions around that. Quintana was very clear about that when he replied to Nibali´s comments right before the Tour of ’15 (http://lacadenilla.com/2015/07/02/nibali-cuestiona-el-paradero-de-quintana/).

        as Andy said, doping is pretty much widespread in Colombia. in many if not all sports that benefit from it, even with amateurs and weekend warriors. just recently, a local strava ‘celebrity’ was caught using banned substances when racing in NYC.

        as for the excruciating angst we Colombians feel when separated from our loved ones, it´s perhaps one of the shaping fundamentals in Colombia´s cycling history. it affected Cochise back in the day. Lucho Herrera retired early, with separation anxiety being one of the reasons. Betancur resents is badly… and those are just a few examples.

        so, yes, Colombian riders dislike being away for too long. but also, it´s by no means a secret that high altitude is what gives Colombian riders the advantage most of them show when climbing. born and raised at altitudes well in excess of 5,000 feet, the ‘escarabajos’ spend their lives in hypoxia, so coming back home to train, to them, is just the obvious way for doing things. for the guys that are already riding in Europe, most of them strongly undereducated when compared to the average in the country, messing with doping and getting caught cheating will mean that entire families (and by that I mean extended families -cousins, aunts and uncles, grand parents…-) will be deprived of the possibility of a rise in the social ladder, that would otherwise be way out of their chances. I strongly believe they steer away from even contemplating the idea.

        • Shane Stokes

          Hey David, thanks a lot for that – plenty of interesting thoughts in there. Thanks too for the link to the video. Staggering for any president to say that…it really is…


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  • Derek Maher

    Just a guess and could be way off base here.
    Columbia and the coca plant have a long history and many of the poorer people used the leaf as both a hunger depressive and stimulant.
    So maybe a lot of the people don’t find it so strange to use a booster for endurance ?.

    • David Marin

      way off base if you make the co-relation with coca and other ‘traditional’ stimulants and the cultures that use them, but that´s another discussion. as for cheating and pushing ahead using any means at hand (drugs trafficking, corruption, violence…), it´s perhaps one of Colombia´s biggest issues. just as an example: the guy in the video, former president of Colombia´s cycling federation, his family has been accused for years, of having strong ties with far-right paramilitary groups (read: massacres, terrorism, kidnappings, etc.) and corruption scandals, and yet gets to be appointed for the office. Colombian´s ethos is: get ahead of the rest at all costs.

    • tcp4me

      I grew up in the South Bay in So. Cal. We had a bike shop in the area that was owned by a former Colombian National Champion from the 50’s and 60′ (If you did any racing there, you know who I mean) He was a good guy and I would see him on his Sunday Morning Rides. He related to me (this was in the 70’s ), that when he was racing in Columbia, almost all the riders,, but especially those who came from the coastal areas, chewed Coca leaves. This wasn’t the alkaloid Cocaine, but just the leaves and it was used primarily for altitude sickness as it reduced headaches and other symptoms associated with it. Coca leaves were also a pain reliever and a mild stimulant, so yes, Coca, in that form, was a PED.

      I didn’t ask him directly if he used it, and he did not relate to me, that he did, and that’s why I will not name him, but it seemed by the way he talked, that it was not only condoned, but almost mandated by the then, team physios, Riders in Colombia raced some days on the coast and other at 8000 feet the next week. You did not have time for acclimatization. He told me they would go to the local street markets and buy the soft sweet bananas we now are all familiar with (not the hard fibrous plantains, which are also called bananas there) and Giant BAGS of Coca Leaves for the team to chew infuse into drinks, or teas, or even cook with. It was part and parcel of racing there at that time.

      But we here in America, have the same but unknown or little known issues. In the 70’s and late eighties my team was sponsored by one of the founders of a famous person’s exercise empire. They made nutritional supplements and were vary popular. I took them regularly, until one day my blood pressure spiked. I had “regular” high blood pressure that was slightly higher than normal, but sometimes spiked into the 180/190’s usually due to stress issues or some food allergies. This time I decided to have my supplement analyzed and contacted a chemist I knew at my Alma Mater. When the results came back i was shocked, not only did these supplements include stimulants (causing my BP to spike) but also corticosteroids, steroids, stimulants, and analgesics, all of them are banned now (but I’m not sure inthe 80’s they were). So I stopped taking them and had a conversion with the sponsor. They were entirely sympathetic and did a reformulation removing some of the pills in the “vita-pak” A subsequent follow-up showed that while most of the egregious ingredients were removed , they were replaced by chemicals like caffeine an even nicotine. All NOT on banned list (then)but harmful nonetheless. These “vita-paks” were sold all over the US and were labeled as vitamins and nutritional supplements and very popular among the cyclists and triathletes the 80′ and into the 90’s. The companies sponsored athletes as well as teams and clubs But very few knew what was in them. Many of the “supplement producers” had the athletes and teams receiving money and product sign non-disclosure agreements because (and I quote from memory here) their supplements contained “privileged, proprietary intellectual properties ,company secrets and patented products”, that if disclosed could cause the company lost revenue(ie, lots of money and then came the litany of things they would do to you legally for disclosing same.. I never signed such agreements or allowed anyone I coached or managed to do so. However the USCF did sign, at the time,(late 80’s) such a contract. To their credit, the USCF (on the “advice” of legal counsel)later rescinded the agreement and the sponsorship with the company The lack of comprehensive testing on athletes due to the money involved precluded the testing that would have found this out early. By my estimate we probably had at least several hundred athletes running around at sanctioned USCF races in the late 80’s and 90’s competing on unknown PEDS that were given to them by their coaches and sponsors. The only ones caught then were those who were good enough to make it to the USCF training camps or selected to ride in Team USA races overseas. These poor guys were sometimes caught and suspended and no one knew who they were or ever were as the USCF at that time did not make out-of-competition testing public. And yes, the USCF knew about the problem and finally did take steps to quell it by requiring that sponsors be vetted too.

      So I would not be to hard on Colombia. Yes, the violance is a real problem, and it, not the PEDs will hurt cycling more, but I’m sure they will grow out of it like we did.

  • Ed E W

    Another third world troublemaker that president elect Donald Trump should build a wall around

  • Pablo

    Is it too difficult to spell the name of a country correctly? It’s Colombia, not Columbia!
    Learn how to write!

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