The ‘Pedeleamos por Colombia’ corporation, which owns the Colombian Pro Continental team, issued a statement on Friday in which they highlighted the progress made over the past decade but stated that the problem of doping "prevented us from moving forward".
Since their inception in 2006 as Colombia es Pasión, the team have always taken a strong anti-doping stance, with internal testing, a focus on educating riders, and a modern, scientific approach to developing Colombian talent such as Nairo Quintana. However, they have been damaged by two doping cases in the space of two months.
In early April, it was revealed that Wilmar Paredes had tested positive for EPO, and this week it emerged that Juan José Amador had tested positive for the steroid Boldenone. While Paredes had his contract terminated with immediate effect, it appeared the team would stand by Amador as they suspended him but vowed to help get to the bottom of his case.
Either way, they faced a team-wide suspension of 12-45 days under UCI regulations for two or more doping cases in a 12-month period. The length of that ban, however, is now moot, as the team pulled the plug on Friday, leaving all riders and staff unemployed.
"Due to the regrettable facts presented in the past weeks, in which athletes belonging to the professional cycling team have been implicated, we have taken the decision not to continue with the squad, and from now on the team will not participate in the races scheduled on the national and international programme," read the statement, signed by Pedeleamos por Colombia president Alejandro Restrepo Echavarría.
"We must thank all the sponsors who put faith in the team and supported us over the years. Without you, it wouldn’t have been possible to have achieved all the milestones we set ourselves. We had more, but, unfortunately, that problem that lingers in sport prevented us from moving forward."
The team was founded in 2006 as Colombia es Pasión, and it was later sponsored by Coldeportes – the Colombian sports ministry that went on to set up its own team – Café de Colombia, and 4-72. In 2015, soft drink company Manzana Postobón came on board as title sponsor and in 2017 the team stepped up to Pro Continental level and started competing more widely in Europe, racing the Vuelta a España that year.
Under the respected coach, Luis Fernando Saldarriaga, the team developed a number of talented young homegrown riders, contributing to the wave of Colombians that have made a splash in the WorldTour in recent years. Nairo Quintana rode for the team in 2010 and 2011, as well as Esteban Chaves and Sergio Henao. Their most recent export was Sergio Higuita, who joined EF Education First at the start of this month and finished second at the recent Tour of California.
However, alongside the two doping cases within the team, two further WorldTour exports have been caught up in controversy, with Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) suspended for an EPO positive and Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) sidelined by his own team for 'seemingly unusual physiological results'.
“For 10 years, as the Corporación Pedaleamos por Colombia, a not-for-profit project born of passion for cycling, we have dedicated ourselves to the promotion of sport, focusing on the development of cyclists with high potential while also being flag bearers for ethical cycling, fair play, and competition free from doping," read the statement.
“Under that banner, we were able to give faith that we were working arduously and with conviction in carrying out doping tests that were within our power. Furthermore, we trained and educated all members of the Corporation, especially the professional and youth riders and including their families, about the importance of standing out through good behaviour, respect for their bodies and health, and, above all, the social responsibility of being an example to a society that is passionate about sport and sees them as role models to follow.”
While the team felt their implication in doping cases meant they couldn't continue, Echavarría called on others to help ensure their founding principles live on.
“The Corporation invites the society as a whole, from national entities like Coldeportes and the Colombian Cycling Frederation, to professional and recreational athletes and fans of cycling, not to give up on the intentions we always believed in, because we are convinced that clean sport has the capacity to give us great triumphs and make us experience great things as a country," read the statement.
“From the Corporacion Corporación Pedaleamos por Colombia, we call on the county’s athletes and cycling teams to strengthen their commitment to the fight against doping, to increase internal testing, to train riders comprehensively so they look after themselves and others. That is the best way to avoid situations like the one that today sees us say goodbye to cycling.”