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Luis Villalobos provisionally suspended after positive drug test

Luis Ricardo Villalobos Hernandez (EF Pro Cycling)
Luis Ricardo Villalobos Hernandez (EF Pro Cycling) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Luis Ricardo Villalobos Hernandez has returned an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for growth hormone GHRP-6 in a sample collected by the Mexican National Anti-Doping Organisation during an out-of-competition control on April 25, 2019, according to UCI press release Monday.

Villalobos has been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the procedure is completed.

Villalobos, 21, is currently under contract to race for EF Pro Cycling, having signed a contract to compete with the American WorldTour team in August of 2019. However,  the out-of-competition test that has resulted in an AAF for GHRP-6 was taken when he was in his final season with Continental team Aevolo.  

The UCI stated that the AAF resulted from the reanalysis of the sample taken on April 25, 2019, by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA). The sample contained GHRP-6 also known as growth hormone-releasing hexapeptide.

Villalobos has the right to request and attend the opening and analysis of the B sample.

Villalobos joined the Aevolo team in 2017 and stayed with the program until August of 2019. He secured a unique three-year deal with Jonathan Vaughters' EF Education First team through 2021.

He is a two-time Mexican national champion in the time trial (2018 and 2019). He was fourth in a stage and eighth overall at the Tour of Utah, where he also won the best young rider competition. He was third at Winston Salem Cycling Classic.

While racing for EF Pro Cycling, he competed at the Tour of Poland, Tour of Britain, EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg and Bretagne Classic in 2019. This February, he raced at the Tour de la Provence and Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.

EF Pro Cycling suspend Villalobos

EF Pro Cycling released a statement regarding Villalobos' AAF for GHRP-6 saying they were only just notified of the positive test on Monday and that they have suspended the rider indefinitely.

"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," EF Education First CEO Jonathan Vaughters said in a statement Monday. 

The team also stated that they are upset to have learned of the AAF more than a year after the test was taken, and that if they had known, they would not have hired Villalobos.

In their team press release, EF Pro Cycling have said they are exploring their legal rights with regard to the extremely delayed notification. 

The team also noted that only WADA accredited labs are able to test for GHRP-6, and teams are not allowed to use those labs in the internal screening processes of athletes due to potential conflicts of interest.

"If we’d have known, we would not have signed Luis," Vaughters said. "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.

"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. 

"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."