The 30-year-old told Colombian radio station LA.FM that while he maintains his innocence the lack of support from the UCI in contesting his doping case has forced him to quit the sport.
Pantano returned a positive A sample for banned substance EPO in an out-of-competition drug test on 26th February with the UCI confirming the failed test on 15th April.
Talking about his decision, Pantano said, ‘I’m a little calmer, but it’s an uncomfortable situation and life has changed for me a lot. I never expected to finish my career like that,’
‘It has been a very difficult process. I am innocent, but I had not said anything because I had to fight the case.’
The UCI has yet to confirm whether Pantano has requested a B sample to be tested, something he is entitled to do. Currently, he remains provisionally suspended by both the sport’s governing body and his former Trek-Segafredo team.
In the same interview, Pantano showed no regret over the findings, telling the radio station he had done nothing wrong.
‘I was left with the peace of my conscience. It’s not a secret that I had health problems, and, this year, I discovered two other viruses,’ said Pantano.
‘I do not know how it came into my body. There are things that do not fit me in the two controls that made me positive, and I have more than 60 biological passport controls.’
Pantano put his decision to retire down to the financial burden of fighting the doping case and the uncertainty of his future due to the suspension handed down by his team.
‘I had two years of contract [left] and I did not need to do it, and I never did. I decided not to continue fighting with the UCI because my defence costs a lot, and I already lost my position in the team,’ said Pantano.
‘What I had to do in cycling, I’ve already done. I thank everyone for the support.’
EPO, or Erythropoietin to give it its full name, was considered the wonder drug of the 1990s and 2000s in cycling for its ability to increase a rider’s red blood cell count.
It was at the centre of the Lance Armstrong scandal that saw the American stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and is attributed by many riders of the era as being the most potent drug for enhancing performance during that period.
With developments in testing, it was thought that EPO was a thing of the past but current cases have seen a resurgence.
Alongside Pantano, Bahrain-Merida’s Kantantsin Siutsou returned an EPO positive last September while Vuelta a San Juan mountains jersey winner was also suspended for the drug in March.
In 2017, 12 riders at the Vuelta a Costa Rica also failed tests for EPO and related drug CERA.