EF Pro Cycling rider suspended over suspected doping at his old team

‘If we’d have known, we would not have signed him,’ says team boss Jonathan Vaughters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A 21-year-old EF Pro Cycling rider has been suspending over suspicion of doping at his former team.

Luis Villalobos joined the US-based WorldTour squad in mid-2019 on a three-year deal, after a promising string of results including the Tour of Utah and the Mexican National Championships.

But Villalobos has now been suspended by EF Pro Cycling after he returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for a growth hormone in a test taken during his time at US Continental team, Aevolo.

EF Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters said: “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.”

Vaughters added: “If we’d have known, we would not have signed Luis.”

According to a letter sent by the UCI to EF Pro Cycling, the test was taken out of competition on April 25, 2019 in Lago de Moreno Mexico and testers found the presence of the growth hormone GHRP-6.

Villalobos joined EF on August 1, 2019.

The team have also raised concerns about period of time between the test and the UCI’s announcement of an adverse analytical finding – EF Pro Cycling were notified of the potential anti-doping offence on Monday (May 18).

Vaughters said: “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.”

Villalobos joined Aevolo for the 2017 season and racked up a collection of impressive results in the US, most notably taking the youth classification in the 2018 Tour of Utah, where he finished eighth overall.

He also claimed back-to-back wins in the Mexican National Championships time trial in 2018 and 2019.

After joining EF in August last year, Villalobos rode the Tour of Poland and the Tour of Britain, going on to start his 2020 season in France before racing was suspended due to coronavirus.

>>> Lance Armstrong reveals he first doped aged 21 in new documentary 

Villalobos now has the right to request the analysis of his B sample, taken at the same time as the A sample which returned the AAF.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.