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Seven Portuguese riders, including three former winners of the Volta a Portugal, received racing bans from three to seven years from the UCI and the Portuguese anti-doping agency, officials confirmed.
João Rodrigues, who won the 2019 Portuguese tour as well as the 2021 Volta ao Algarve, sees a four-year ban from the UCI for anomalies in his biological passport and an additional three years for a “possession of a banned method” from Portuguese authorities.
The high-profile bans come following a string of doping cases among lower level teams based in Portugal. All seven raced for the continental-level W52-FC Porto team, which saw its racing license suspended by the UCI this summer.
Other riders banned include Rui Vinhas (winner of the Tour of Portugal in 2016), Ricardo Mestre (winner in 2011), Ricardo Vilela, Daniel Mestre, José Neves, and Samuel Caldeira, all sanctioned for three years for possession of banned products and methods.
Vinhas and Daniel Mestre were cited for possession of betamethasone, while Neves, Ricardo Mestre, Caldeira, and Vilela were caught with human growth hormones and other products, officials said.
All seven confessed in order to receive reduced bans, officials said.
The Portuguese cycling federation applauded the bans and the police action behind the “Prova Limpa” investigation, calling the case “maximum gravity.”
For 2023, the Portuguese cycling federation confirmed it will extend the application of the biological passport to all registered teams, including the continental-level teams that are not required to operate under the passport system.