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One of Colombia’s most important teams abruptly pulled the plug on its project Friday following a string of scandals within its own ranks.
The management company behind Manzana Postobón, currently a Professional Continental team that’s nurtured some of Colombia’s top pros since its inception in 2007, cited a pair of doping cases involving its riders as the reason for its sudden mid-season exit.
The team said it would stop racing immediately, and not start scheduled upcoming races in Colombian or internationally.
“Following the recent events, in which riders were involved at a personal level, we made the decision not to continue with the professional team,” said team president Alejandro Restrepo in a press release. “As of now, the team will not participate in the scheduled national and international events.”
Restrepo said the team has been committed to clean racing since its inception and insisted that the doping cases involving its riders came as a result of activity beyond the control of the team.
The team’s hasty departure leaves a big hole in Colombian cycling. The team includes 16 riders and recently raced in such events as the Tour of the Alps in Italy and the Vuelta a Aragon in Spain.
This spring, the team confirmed that one of its riders, Wilmar Paredes, tested positive for EPO. Last week, Juan José Amador also tested positive for a banned steroid. With the team facing possible sanctions from the UCI, management made the decision to stop racing.
“With these two latest cases, I reiterate that it was something personal, nothing to do with the team,” lead sport director Luis Fernando Saldarriaga told the Colombian daily El Tiempo. “The team is a strong enemy of doping. My conscience is clear, but it’s a reminder to everyone that this [cycling] is infected with doping.”
The scandal is the latest in a string of doping cases involving Colombian riders. There have been five cases in the past year, including WorldTour rider Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo), who tested positive for EPO this spring. Alex Cano (Coldeportes-Zenu) was also suspended for suspicious levels in his biological passport. Fabian Puerta, a track sprinter who won the Keirin world title in 2018, also tested for traces of a banned steroid last summer.
The team dates back to 2007, and management said it tried to instill a culture of clean racing among its ranks from the beginning. The team was one of the first to adopt the biological passport, and later it raced as a Professional Continental team. It stepped back to the Continental and amateur ranks only to race at the Pro-Conti level again since 2016 with new sponsor Manzana Postobón.
In its earliest years, it was a small Continental-level team, but was an early home to such riders as Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves, Sergio Henao, and Fabio Duarte, a former U23 world champion.
It briefly raced at the Professional Continental level in 2011, but one of its key backers — Coldeportes — left to create a new Professional Continental team. Manzana Postobón, a soft drink company, came on as a new sponsor to allow the team to return to the professional ranks in 2016.