The International Cycling Union (UCI) withdrew the sporting license from the W52-FC Porto, following suspicions of repeated doping in the cycling team linked to the dragons six years ago, thus preventing it from appearing in the Volta a Portugal squad, which goes on the road from the 4th to the 15th of August.
It all started about a year ago with an anonymous complaint to the Judiciary Police, which, in collaboration with the Anti-Doping Authority of Portugal (ADoP), mounted a long investigation operation, which culminated in searches and arrests.. According to the DN, the cyclists and the rest of the structure were monitored by the PJ for almost a year until the Prova Limpa operation took to the streets, on the 24th of April.
The operation involved 120 inspectors and several prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, who simultaneously searched the hotel where the team was installed, a warehouse, official vehicles and the private cars of cyclists and the entire structure of the team and the homes of all elements of the W52-FC Porto. The intervention from North to South of the country led to a huge seizure of doping products and material to aid prohibited practices, namely for blood transfusions.
The operation was attended by seven ADoP elements, who collected blood and urine from the cyclists, which were immediately sent to a laboratory in Barcelona. The results came back negative in urine tests. As for the blood analysis, carried out according to the international anti-doping protocol to obtain results for the biological passport, they are still under observation, since it is only possible to detect prohibited substances with four or more analyses.
Despite this, and after the PJ had arrested two people (the director Nuno Ribeiro and the deputy José Rodrigues) and had constituted ten defendants, the ADoP asked the MP to have access to the evidence collected and as soon as it had authorization, it started the establishment of disciplinary proceedings. After being notified of this and the body’s intention to suspend them preventively, those involved had 10 working days to justify themselves.
The arguments did not convince the experts of the anti-doping authority, who advanced to preventive suspension. Decision soon communicated to the defendants, the club, the Portuguese Cycling Federation (FPC), the UCI and the AMA (World Anti-Doping Agency). According to the DN, “the UCI was very concerned” with the suspicions of repeated doping, since it had already punished two athletes linked to the dragons. [Raul Alarcón e Edgar Pinto] for doping and had the entire process translated, later deciding to withdraw the license to compete at W52-FC Porto.
“The Portuguese Cycling Federation confirms that it was today [ontem] notified by the International Cycling Union (UCI) that this entity has decided to withdraw the sporting license from the continental team W52-FC Porto, following the information received by the UCI about the process taking place at the Anti-Doping Authority of Portugal. The decision takes effect immediately, so the team is prevented from competing again”, informed the Portuguese Cycling Federation, which, when contacted by the DN, did not want to add anything beyond what was written in the statement. was the option, there being no comment on the subject until the closing time of this edition.
The decision took Adriano Quintanilha, boss of the W52-FC Porto, by surprise, who wanted to be in the Volta a Portugal peloton – he was invited by Podium Events, organizer of the race -, despite having only three cyclists available (Amaro Antunes, José Neves and Jorge Magalhães) of the minimum of five required. “I was always told that the team had nothing to do with it, that it was an individual case. The cyclists continue to say that they never got involved in anything. As a manager, I have a clear conscience, I never demanded anything that was not the truth and I continue to believe in the cyclists’ wordQuintanilha told Antena 1.
Among the ten suspended are four former winners of the Volta a Portugal: João Rodrigues (2019), Rui Vinhas (2016), Ricardo Mestre (2011) and Joni Brandão, who inherited the victory in the 2018 edition after being disqualified, for doping, from the ex-dragon Raúl Alarcón.
Case never seen in Portugal
As a rule, ADoP only punishes based on laboratory data, this being the first time that it acts based on the anti-doping law that allows disciplinary and criminal action, in cases of possession and trafficking, based on factual evidence. There are elements suspected of possession of illicit substances, others of trafficking and some of possession and trafficking. “There has never been a doping process as complex and heavy as this one in Portugal. The tons of pills found – 99% of them banned -, the blood bags, the equipment for making blood transfusions, indicated massive doping operations unpunished for a long time” , a source familiar with the process explained to DN.
As a result, there is a disciplinary process being prepared by the ADoP – which may still involve more people -, which will go to the Anti-Doping Disciplinary College for analysis and judgment, where those involved will be able to defend themselves and even collaborate with justice and benefit of whistleblower status. At the same time, the criminal process continues in the justice system, the indictment of which should only be ready in a few months and should result in charges of possession and trafficking in illicit substances.