Postcard from Colombia: How the nation’s cycling federation is in last chance saloon after failure to tackle doping

It is like a family that produces wonderful children, admired by the whole world, but they have to leave home at a very young age, otherwise they become corrupted.

This is Colombian cycling.

And that may not be known to the public that watches Nairo, Rigo and Egan do their thing in the mountains, but the UCI does.

A few months ago there was meeting in Argentina with the leaders of the Colombian Cycling Federation (FCC).

The warning was blunt: another case of doping and Colombian cycling is sanctioned.

The father of the family was told in no uncertain terms to put the house in order.

The FCC called a meeting at a major bicycle distributor in Medellín to all affiliated teams. There were even some tickets paid for by the federation.
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The fans were treated to a week of action-packed racing but many will be left to wonder what future cycling has in Colombia

The control of doping would therefore depend on laboratories abroad meaning, in practice, it would depend on international agencies that would take samples in Colombian races.

But since the Federation has already demonstrated a lack of will to pursue doping, so get breast when international agencies do the task and detect positive. In fact, a persistent rumour among people cycling in the country is that before WADA stopped the laboratory it was usual to pay bribes to not make public the positive test and proceed to the penalty.

If this were not enough, it should be added that the laboratory of Coldeportes did not pass the review that was done last year and still can not operate, so any doping samples that are taken in the races that are contested in Colombia have to be analysed in the United States and Canada.

Independent analysis will cost between $400 and $500 per sample, far too expensive for the FCC, so daily checks are not carried in Colombian race.

Finally, and perhaps most damning, at the Vuelta a Colombia last year eight cyclists tested positive in a sample of just forty.

The tests were conducted by the Anti-Doping Foundation, an independent body of the UCI and, of course, the Federation. The cyclists involved used old-generation doping and their results in the competition were rather modest, what says a lot about the substances that could be used by those who dispute the first places of the general classification.

This year’s Vuelta a Colombia took place outside of UCI competition, not helping those of a suspicious nature to believe cycling in the country has moved on, especially given the lack of rider testing.

The true nature of the situation has been hidden by the FCC. Whenever anything leaks or is made public, they react with anger, rebuking the news.

Every so often when a journalist does denounce what happens, they are attacked by the FCC directives and any attempts to go beyond are dismissed.

Other journalists – who are friends with the FCC and rely on exclusivity to cover races – are also quick to wade in to defend the federation.

To cite just one example, Hector Palau , a journalist with Radio Cadena Nacional, who also acts as race director for the RCN Classic, immediately went out to refute the Twitter of Sebastián Heredia, the journalist who announced the meeting in which Jorge Ovidio González warned the national teams.

For Palau those practices were more in keeping with football journalists, a discipline in which Heredia is a specialist, not cycling.

The problem, of course, is that if the cycling authorities penalise the FCC, the main losers will be the athletes.
Neither Nairo nor Egan nor Rigo would be able to compete in the World Road Championships this year on a route which is favourable to them.

Aside from the road, it would also mean Mariana Pajon would not be able to compete in the BMX championships and add to her already-impressive medal haul.

But if that is the price that must be paid for the government to finally intervene and sanitise the handling of Colombian cycling, we should welcome the suspension.

There is no right for Colombia to have a group of the best cyclists in the world, especially given the fact that the workings of cycling in the country causes shame for such a mediocre leadership.

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