French rider Romain Le Roux has defended himself after being handed a six-month doping ban this weekend, claiming he was just one microgram over the limit for pseudoephedrine, a decongestant drug.
The 24-year-old, who rides for the Continental team Armée de Terre, was added to the UCI's list of anti-doping sanctions this weekend, with the date of the positive sample listed as June 19 of this year, the final day of the Route du Sud, won by Nairo Quintana.
The sixth-month ban is effective from the date of the test and he will be able to return on December 18, though all his results since have been annulled.
"I'm not a cheat. I've never cheated," said Le Roux in an interview with French newspaper Le Télégramme, explaining that he took the substance due to the severe allergies he suffers each spring.
"I went to see my family doctor, who prescribed me Rhinadvil – a medication that contains pseudoephedrine. Like last year, I used it for two or three days – no more. The limit allowed by the UCI is 170 micrograms per litre of blood, and I went over by one microgram – I was at 171.
"I've never tried to enhance my performances. The day I was tested, I finished 85th on the stage and 86th overall. The pseudoephedrine doesn't make you pedal faster. I didn't want to be better, I just wanted to treat myself."
Le Roux learned of the positive test last month, and says he presented a 35-page dossier, containing all his prescriptions since 2006, to the UCI in a bid to prove his allergy troubles.
"I genuinely thought that would settle the matter," he said. "The UCI wanted to make an example of it, but I think they also understood my good faith. I was over by one microgram…"
Le Roux says his team have been understanding of the situation and he is set to renew his contract, but the whole affair has had a damaging impact on his reputation.
"I'm not sleeping well. This positive test is going to sully my image. Some people are going to say I'm a cheat, a doper," he said. "I have my own conscience, and I know very well that I have not cheated, but I'm very scared of the image this will leave.
"Our sport is fighting against doping and we end up with a situation where we can't look after ourselves – it's a shame."