USA Cycling RaceClean program nabs unprecedented number of amateur athletes for doping

Camilo Ulloa was the latest amateur athlete found to have violated anti-doping rules as part of USA Cycling's RaceClean Program. The Colombian tested positive for the stimulant Ritalin (Methylphenidate) during the 2016 Tour of America's Dairyland in Wisconsin on June 25.

The 28-year-old is the fifth anti-doping suspension handed down under the programme since August. In all, USADA has suspended 10 amateur cyclists this year under various anti-doping initiatives, including Nick Brandt-Sorenson of Los Angeles, who, USADA concluded, was involved in running a website called "The Anemia Patient Group," through which he marketed and distributed prohibited and illegal substances to fellow athletes.

USA Cycling's RaceClean program was initiated in 2013, following the example of local organisers who, in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping revelations, set out to test more at the domestic level.

Current CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall has expanded the initiative, telling Cyclingnews earlier this year that it was at the behest of the membership.

"This level of amateur anti-doping testing doesn't exist in other sports, and we're proud of that. We're charting new territory. It's exactly what USAC should be doing is showing leadership," Bouchard-Hall said.

RaceClean contributes funds, in part, collected from licences to the US Anti-Doping Agency to increase USADA's controls at amateur events across the country.

Under USA Cycling rules, amateurs are held to the same standard as professionals when it comes to following anti-doping rules and are required to obtain Therapeutic Use Exemptions for any medications they take which might be banned in competition.

In a press release, USADA revealed that it was using sophisticated techniques on samples from amateur athletes: "Every urine sample that USADA collects is scrutinized under an Athlete Biological Passport program that examines levels of multiple steroid biomarkers that can indicate doping. Samples that exhibit atypical qualities are then targeted for more sophisticated IRMS analyses, which can reveal the presence of synthetic, prohibited Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS)."

The suspended amateurs

Ulloa, who placed several times in the top 10 in the Pro 1-2 men's field at the Tour of America's Dairyland, was given a four-year suspension beginning on August 8, 2016.

His suspension follows that of compatriot Ana Milena Fagua Raquira, who was also given a four-year ban for exogenous AAS in a control taken July 19, 2015, at the Willow Springs Road Race in Willow Springs, Illinois.

Michael Buckley of Reno, Nevada tested positive for two AAS substances in an out-of-competition control and was given a four-year ban on January 20.

Elite amateur racer Shawn D’Aurelio of Dana Point, California was given a four-year ban last month for refusing to submit to anti-doping testing on July 13.

The remaining banned riders were given reduced suspensions because they were either taking banned substances under the direction of a doctor or confessed promptly.

Kimberly Ciolli of Austin, Texas tested positive on June 11 at the Tulsa Tough criteriums for a stimulant propylhexedrine and an unnamed exogenous androgenic anabolic steroid. She was given a two-year sanction after USADA accepted that the substances were in prescription and over-the-counter products she was taking under the care of a physician.

45-year-old Jeff Schwab of Bullard, Texas was given a two-year ban after a positive for exogenous testosterone on March 13, 2016, at the Tour of Corsicana Bike Race. USADA agreed that the positive was the result of medication prescribed to Schwab by his doctor, without the intent to enhance performance, but he lacked the requisite Therapeutic Use Exemption.

Robert Baatz, of Lewisville, Texas, was also given a two-year ban for a positive at the Tour of Corsicana on March 12. He also tested positive for an exogenous androgenic anabolic steroid because of a prescription medication for which he lacked a TUE.

Yamile Lugo of Colombia tested positive for testosterone at the Gran Fondo New York on May 17, but promptly identified a product she was taking which unwittingly caused the rule violation and was given a reduced two-year ban.

Mary Verrando-Higgins of Ocala, Florida was banned for one year after testing positive for metabolites of methyltestosterone at the Masters National Championships in Winston-Salem. Verrando-Higgins applied for a TUE, but USADA denied her application.

Oscar Tovar, of Chia, Colombia, who tested positive at the 2015 Gran Fondo New York was disqualified from a race in his home country, the 2016 Clásica Nacional Alcaldía de Anapoima, for racing while banned.

*It should be noted that Tovar and Lugo tested positive at the Gran Fondo New York in controls funded by the event. Only Ulloa, Fagua Raquira, Schwab, Baatz, and Ciolli were tested under Race Clean.

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