Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, announced Wednesday that Venezuelan rider Miguel Ubeto (Lampre-Merida) has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for the controversial drug GW1516 sulfone. Ubeto admitted to using the substance following surgery earlier this year, though he claimed he stopped when the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement on the drug.
A metabolic modulator that burns body fat and increases muscle mass, GW1516 has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2009 and is linked to potentially lethal health issues, including tumors.
The UCI provisionally suspended Ubeto after a WADA-accredited laboratory in Köln, Germany, found traces of GW1516 (also referred to as GW501516) in a urine sample collected from Ubeto in an out-of-competition test on April 16, 2013.
Ubeto, 36, has been racing since 2001, but only turned professional in 2012 with Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela before signing with the UCI WorldTour team Lampre for 2013. In 2011 he won the UCI America Tour riding for Lotería del Táchira.
Ubeto remains provisionally suspended until a hearing panel convened by the Venezuelan Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules. Ubeto has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B-sample.
On March 21, WADA took the extraordinary measure to issue a warning about the health dangers of GW501516: “The side effect of this chemical compound is so serious that WADA is taking the rare step of warning “cheats” to ensure that there is complete awareness of the possible health risks to athletes who succumb to the temptation of using GW501516 for performance enhancement. GW501516 was a developmental drug that was withdrawn from research by the pharmaceutical company and terminated when serious toxicities were discovered in pre-clinical studies.
“Clinical approval has not, and will not be given for this substance. However, GW501516 has been available for some months on the black market, through the Internet and elsewhere. Anti-Doping authorities have already seen its use by athletes, as there are a number of positive cases. Please pass this information on to your athletes as soon as possible.”
Just weeks later, on April 11, the UCI announced that RusVelo rider Valery Kaykov had become the first pro cyclist to test positive for the drug.
Earlier this month, Colombian Marlon Perez, a stage winner at the 2004 Tour de Langkawi, was also suspended for testing positive for GW1516.
Ubeto issued a statement later on Wednesday, linking the positive test to medications he was prescribed following surgery earlier this year to repair a fractured arm:
I, Miguel Armando Ubeto Aponte, by the means of this letter, would like to explain the situation linked to the adverse analytical finding for substance GW1516, that was detected during an out competition control, taking on all the culpability for what happened and apologizing with Team Lampre-Merida.
In January 2013, I suffered for an injury (broken humerus) because of a crash in Vuelta al Tachira and I underwent surgery in Atias Clinic in Caracas.
The clinic doctors suggested me a therapy that called for consumption of medicines including substance GW1516. The documents that certify this suggestions are in my possession.
On March 2013, reading a note by WADA about the mentioned substance, I stopped immediately the therapy.
I understand now what a serious carelessness I made not informing the team medical staff, with whose member I’ve been always in contact.
In good faith, I made a huge mistake for which I’m the only responsible.
That’s why I want to apologize with Team Lampre-Merida, its medical staff, and its sponsors: I could appreciate how big are the efforts the team is performing in taking care of the image of cycling as a clean sport, so my sadness is even higher for the carelessness I made.
Fully aware of my responsabilities, I’m at the disposal of the competent bodies to clarify the whole situation.
Miguel Armando Ubeto Aponte