The International Cycling Union has announced that Fabián Puerta Zapata, a professional track cyclist and world champion, has been given a provisional suspension after he tests positive for Equipoise (Boldenone).
The ICU is moving forward to test the secondary sample that has been collected by Puerta, but as of right now Puerta will be suspended from competition for at least the next six months.
Urine samples that had been collected by anti-doping officials, working on behalf of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, were taken in the middle of competition at the Columbia National Track Championships on June 11, 2018.
The initial sample that had been collected from Puerta showed signs of the anabolic steroid Equipoise in the urine provided by Puerta, which is what triggered the provisional suspension in the first place.
This compound, and many other anabolic steroids, offer a significant advantage for cyclists that compete in the same style of events that Puerta has been competing in. Unlike road cycling events (including the Tour de France), track cycling events require a lot more power, short-term speed, and overwhelming strength to reach the kind of acceleration on these shorter tracks that lead to championships.
Equipoise is a powerful anabolic steroid more commonly used by endurance athletes because of its positive impact on erythropoeisis and is sometimes used by track cyclists to boost their ability to generate more muscle mass and improve strength gains.
The use of Equipoise by professional athletes has fallen by the wayside in recent years, however. In fact, it’s not at all that common to have someone get suspended for using equipoise, if only because it is one of the easiest to detect anabolic steroids by all of the world’s anti-doping organizations.
Many believe that Puerta was using equipoise simply because it is overwhelmingly easy to get in South America, mostly because of its significant distribution network to veterinarians and those that work with horses in the region.
South America has fairly lax regulations when it comes to the importation and access to veterinarian drugs compared to other nations around the world, and they also have fairly lax regulations that govern veterinarian drugs compared to human grade pharmaceutical solutions.
This has made equipoise the anabolic steroid of choice for amateur and professional athletes throughout South America. Most of the time, however, when these athletes begin to compete at the international level they taper off their use of these substances – if only because the odds of them getting caught and receiving a suspension are so high.
There is no news out of the Puerta camp as to whether or not this athlete is going to try and appeal the suspension that he has received. Puerta has been one of the most dominant cyclists in his given field over the past five years or so, receiving a gold medal at the 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships as well as at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games.
Puerta also placed fifth 2016 Summer Olympics, was a silver medalist at the 2014 World Championships, and also received a silver medal for the 2017 World Championships that were held in Hong Kong.
There is no time limit for the ICU to have concluded their testing protocols on the other urine samples that have been collected by Puerta. The provisional suspension takes place immediately, and Puerta will not be able to compete at the professional level for at least the next six months while these more in-depth testing protocols are conducted.
Should he be found to have used Equipoise, or any other performance-enhancing drugs, it’s likely that he will receive between a two-year and four-year suspension.