Leonardo Piepoli Tour de France 2008

Italian Leonardo Piepoli, who twice tested positive for the blood-boosting drug CERA at the 2008 Tour de France, has admitted his shame in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Piepoli won stage ten to Hautacam in the Tour de France and later tested positive (by retroactive testing) for the drug the day before the Tour started and on the rest day after his stage win.

Piepoli met with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in October, which called for a two-year ban, effectively a death knell for the 37-year old's career.

The Italian rode in support of team-mate Ricardo Riccò at the Giro d'Italia, helping him to maintain a high position overall, before crashing heavily on a mountain descent forcing him to retire from the race.

He returned to action at the Dauphiné Libéré but admitted to La Gazzetta to using the illicit drug in his preparations for the Tour de France.

"The day I doped myself before the Tour de France, I killed a part of myself. I killed cycling. I really hit rock bottom in that moment of weakness," said Piepoli.

"I had the Vuelta on my programme and so I could recover steadily [from the Giro crash]. I stopped for two weeks before starting training again. Then Ricardo Riccò asked me to accompany him to the Tour de France. I liked the idea and I was flattered.

"I had a moment of weakness, of madness that I can justify thus: I [did it] to fill a hole in my preparation. At Hautacam, I won and I told myself I'd stolen it. I was searching for a way to defend myself by saying to myself that it was the only time [I had doped] in my life. So what happened next? Riccò tested positive. The team is excluded. That's the end".

Commenting on his two year suspension, Piepoli said, "it is better if they [CONI] would have given me four or six [years]. At 37 years old with a wife and a child what I did is unjustifiable. I say 'don't dope because it will wear on your conscience and your dignity forever'".

After Riccò's positive test and subsequent exclusion from the Tour, Piepoli vigorously denied any allegations of doping until he twice tested positive for CERA in retroactive testing carried out by the French Anti-Doping Agency [AFLD].

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