EF Pro Cycling’s Luis Ricardo Villalobos has been provisionally suspended from competition after he recorded an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) during an out-of-competition anti-doping test that was carried out before he joined the squad.
The test came from 2019, when Villalobos, 21, was racing for the U.S. Aevolo squad. He joined EF Pro Cycling later that summer.
EF Pro Cycling suspended Villalobos indefinitely and released a statement criticizing “amateur doctors and trainers.”
“This team was set up to protect the health and the rights of riders across the sport, particularly the younger riders as they entered the professional level. It’s hugely upsetting for us when these young riders fall under the guidance of amateur doctors and trainers who ultimately ruin their careers,” said the team’s CEO Jonathan Vaughters in a release.
According to a statement released Monday by the UCI, Villalobos’s AAF came after a sample taken by Mexican authorities on April 25, 2019. The sample was then reexamined by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and upon its reanalysis, Villalobos’s sample recorded an AAF for GHRP-6, a growth hormone.
Villalobos can now request the analysis of his “B” sample from the same test.
According to EF, GHRP-6 is a substance that can only best tested for in WADA-accredited labs. Teams are not allowed to use those labs for internal screening processes. EF Pro Cycling, formerly Cannondale-Drapac, has long touted its internal anti-doping controls and culture.
“If we’d have known, we would not have signed Luis,” Vaughters said in a statement. “The burden of this is on the UCI because there is no internal testing program that has access to the level of equipment needed to screen for GHRP-6.”
The news marks a major setback for Mexico’s most promising cyclist of this generation. Villalobos joined Aevolo in 2017 and rose to prominence the following season on the U.S. domestic racing scene. He was the revelation of the 2018 Tour of Utah, where he finished 8th place overall at age 19.
Villalobos inked a deal to race with EF Pro Cycling in 2019, and he made his WorldTour debut at the Tour of Poland that August.
In a release, Vaughters chided the UCI for the delay in the test result.
“Everyone deserves better. Luis deserved better guidance and mentoring from his past trainers and doctors. And the team deserved better from the UCI than to learn of this situation more than a year after the fact,” Vaughters said. “While it’s encouraging that the system is catching riders, it has to be more transparent and accountable than this. We are going to encourage Luis to not fight this and to tell the truth, whatever that may be.”