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Pantano retires from professional cycling after EPO positive

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Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) riding for the Colombian national team

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) riding for the Colombian national team (Image credit: Courtesy of Polartec-Kometa)
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Jarlinson Pantano (Trek - Segafredo)

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek - Segafredo) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo)

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo)

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jarlinson Pantano (Trek - Segafredo) riding for the Colombiaa team

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek - Segafredo) riding for the Colombiaa team (Image credit: Courtesy of Polartec-Kometa)

On the heels of his provisional suspension in April for a positive test for Erythropoietin (EPO), 30-year-old Colombian Jarlinson Pantano has announced his retirement from professional cycling.

Pantano continues to maintain his innocence, but in an interview published on LAFM.com, he said the lack of an encouraging response from the UCI in regard to his ongoing case prompted his decision to walk away from the sport.

"I'm a little calmer, but it's an uncomfortable situation and life has changed for me a lot. I never expected to finish my career like that," Pantano is quoted as saying in the story published on LAFM.com. "It has been a very difficult process. I am innocent, but I had not said anything because I had to do the fight."

Pantano tested positive for the blood boosting drug EPO in an out-of-competition anti-doping control on February 26. News of the case broke on April 15 when Trek-Segafredo suspended the rider.

Pantano, a stage winner at the 2016 Tour de France, tested positive for EPO two days after the final stage of the Tour du Haut Var, where he finished 20th. He then rode Paris-Nice before abandoning the Volta a Catalunya on the opening stage on March 25, and hasn’t raced since.

He was provisionally suspended by Trek-Segafredo, where he has ridden since 2017, but he was expected to request analysis of his B  sample from the UCI’s Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation. If that sample confirmed the presence of EPO, he faced a ban of four years. There has been no word from either Pantano or the UCI about the status of his B sample test.

Pantano told journalist Jairo Enrique Rodríguez that he has no reason to repent or apologise because he did nothing wrong.

"I was left with the peace of my conscience. It's not a secret that I had health problems, and, this year, I discovered two other viruses," he said. "I do not know how it came into my body. There are things that do not fit me in the two controls that made me positive, and I have more than 60 biological passport controls."

Pantano, who counts the Tour de France win and stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Suisse among his career highlights, started his pro career at Colombia-Coldeportes in 2012. He raced for Team Colombia through 2014 and then moved to IAM Cycling. He jumped to Trek-Segafredo in 2017 and signed a two-year contact extension in 2018 that would have taken him through the 2020 season.

"I had two years of contract and I did not need to do it, and I never did," Pantano said. "I decided not to continue fighting with the UCI because my defence costs a lot, and I already lost my position in the team. What I had to do in cycling, I've already done. I thank everyone for the support."

EPO use peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s, with the Lance Armstrong case laying bare the rampant abuse of blood-boosting techniques in the pro peloton. But with the advent of the biological passport, its use is thought to have drastically decreased.

Nonetheless, there have been a number of EPO positives in the last several years. Colombian Wilmar Paredes was suspended from Manzana Postobon after a positive was announced in April. Vuelta a San Juan mountains classification winner Daniel Zamora was suspended March for an EPO positive from that race.

Last November, former Trek-Segafredo rider Andre Cardoso was handed a four-year ban from a 2017 EPO positive, while Rémy Di Gregorio was suspended last year after testing positive for Aranesp in Paris-Nice. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Bahrain-Merida) was suspended last September after a July positive for EPO.

In all, there are 17 athletes who are currently serving suspensions for EPO on the UCI Anti-Doping Rule Violation list, and 22 suspended for a related drug CERA - most stemming from mass-suspensions in tests taken in South America at either the Vuelta a Costa Rica or Vuelta a Colombia in 2017