The Algarve-born athlete and six other W52-FC Porto cyclists have been suspended by the Portuguese Anti-Doping Authority.
João Rodrigues, born in Tavira and winner of the 2019 Volta a Portugal and 2021 Volta ao Algarve, has been suspended for seven years. Six other W52-FC Porto cyclists received further three-year sanctions from the Portuguese Anti-Doping Authority.
According to the list of disciplinary sanctions updated by the Anti-Doping Authority of Portugal (ADoP), João Rodrigues will serve a four-year punishment imposed by the International Cycling Union for anomalies in his biological passport and another three years for “possession of a prohibited method”.
Rui Vinhas and Ricardo Mestre, winners of the Volta a Portugal in 2016 and 2011, respectively, are sanctioned for three years for “possession of a prohibited substance and prohibited method”. The ADoP evoked the same reason to suspend Ricardo Vilela, Daniel Mestre, José Neves and Samuel Caldeira for the same period.
Vinhas and Mestre were punished for possessing betamethasone (a corticosteroid), while José Neves, national champion in 2021 and winner of the Douro Internacional Grand Prix this season, Ricardo Mestre and Ricardo Vilela were in possession of growth hormones.
Like Mestre and Vilela, Samuel Cadeira, ‘captain’ of the team on the road, was also in possession of somatropin and growth hormone, in addition to insulin.
At the end of April, ten cyclists from the W52-FC Porto were accused. The team’s sports director, Nuno Ribeiro, was even arrested, as well as his deputy, José Rodrigues, during the “Prova Limpa” (Clean Test) operation carried out by the Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DIAP) of Porto.
During the police operation, “various substances and clinical instruments were seized, used in the athletes’ training and impacting their sporting performance”, reported the Judiciary Police.
On July 15, eight cyclists (João Rodrigues, Joni Brandão, Rui Vinhas, Ricardo Mestre, Ricardo Vilela, José Gonçalves, Samuel Caldeira and Daniel Mestre) were preventively suspended by the ADoP, which, in late August, also suspended José Neves and Jorge Magalhães.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) withdrew the sporting license from the W52-FC Porto before the Volta a Portugal.