The Spaniard said it was the "hardest year of my life", which led him to using the non-doping related pills

Spaniard Juan José Lobato is “sorry” for taking prohibited sleeping pills at a LottoNL-Jumbo camp on December 14, which led to him being dropped by the team, but says it had been the “hardest year of my life.”

Lobato did not wake up immediately. He and Dutchmen Antwan Tolhoek and Pascal Eenkhoorn were taken to the hospital immediately during a December training camp in Girona, Spain.

The Dutch WorldTour team fired Lobato, 29, and suspended 23-year-old Tolhoek and 20-year-old Eenkhoorn for two months.

The team said the “non-doping related sleep medication” was “a severe and unacceptable violation of the team regulations.”

“Although I will no longer represent its colours, I must apologise to the team for having breached part of its regulations,” Lobato wrote in an open letter.

“They eventually decided to fire me and we reached an agreement to rescind the contract.

Lobato called 2017 “the hardest year of his life” with the accidental death of his uncle and separation from his wife.

JJ Lobato at the Tour of Britain in 2015

“I also want to acknowledge publicly that it is true that I have needed this medication at certain times of the 2017 year due to personal problems. Moreover, I think there are many people who in their lives need to take sleeping pills during a period,” Lobato continued.

“I lived the hardest year of my life. I had to face a difficult separation and my uncle, who was key in my development as a cyclist and as a person and who left us at only 43 years of age. Due to all these problems of a personal nature, falling asleep was not easy.”

Lobato still had one year remaining on his two-year contract with LottoNL-Jumbo. With previous teams Movistar and Euskaltel-Euskadi, he won stages in the Tour de Wallonie, the Vuelta a Burgos, the Dubai Tour and the Tour Down Under.

With the 2018 season already underway, Lobato remains searching for a new contract.

“I am very sorry for the decision I made. I find myself without a team and I also need to publicly express my desire to continue competing at the highest level,” he explained.

“These are very hard times and I would like to thank you for all the support you have shown me during this month and a half. In life you never have to give up and I hope to have the opportunity to compete again as soon as possible.

“It’s the only thing I ask for: an opportunity to race. I have been training very hard these months to be able to find a team again and enjoy this sport again.”