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No less than a dozen Costa Rican riders were nabbed for positive substances as a result of testing at the Vuelta Ciclista Internacional a Costa Rica in December, with each of them using either EPO or an EPO-related substance.
The samples were collected on December 22 and were targeted, with the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) swooping in intelligence-led doping controls. It is not clear what information they were acting on, but the high rate of positives attests to the value of that information.
The riders include the Costa Rican brothers Juan Carlos and Cesar Andres Rojas Villalegas, who were both racing with the Extralum-Frijoles Tierniticos team in 2017.
The former is 36 years old and is a multiple winner of the Vuelta Ciclista Internacional a Costa Rica, winning it in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and in December. His brother is 29 and took the same race in 2016. He was third overall in December.
They tested positive for the third generation EPO product CERA, as did their teammates Jewinson Leandro Varela Zuniga (22, 5th overall) and Jose Alexis Rodriquez Villalobos (21, under 23 Pan Am TT champion).
Also nabbed were Scott TeleUno rider Vladimir Fernandez Torres (30, winner stage 4 and fifth overall) and the Multiples Corella duo Melvin Mora Garita (28), who temporarily became race leader when he was fourth on stage 2, and Kevin Murillo Solano (23, fifth on stage 10).
Similarly busted for CERA was the Costa Rican national road race champion Gabriel Eduardo Marin Sanchez (23), Jason Huertas Araya (19, Lizarte team), Jose Irias (26, Nestle Giant) and Jordy Sandoval (24).
Another rider, Jeancarlo Padilla (21, Scott-Tele Uno TV) tested positive for EPO en route to taking ninth in the youth classification. Like the others, he too is facing a lengthy ban.
The UCI said that the tests were carried out in conjunction with a number of bodies.
“These intelligence-led doping controls were planned and carried out by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body in charge of defining and implementing the anti-doping strategy in cycling, with the assistance of the Federacion Costarricense de Ciclismo, the Comisión Nacional Antidopaje de Costa Rica and the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreacion.”
The B samples are yet to be tested, and the riders have the right to attend. They have been provisional suspended in the meantime.
In November the Vuelta a Colombia was similarly rocked by the news that eight riders had tested positive. Those too were targeted, intelligence-led controls.