Leonardo Piepoli explained that he stole his Tour de France stage win last July due to the drugs he used in preparation. Officials caught the Italian and his teammate Riccardo Riccò using blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO) after they dominated the first half of the French stage race.
"At Hautacam it became big, I won. I said to myself, 'I stole it.' I sought to defend myself, 'One time in my life.' Instead? Riccò positive. The team pulls out. The end," Piepoli said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Piepoli, 37, helped his Team Saunier Duval captain Riccò in the Giro d'Italia last May, prior to the Tour. He suffered a heavy crash in stage 15 of the race and withdrew immediately. Riccò went on to finish second overall and win the best young rider classification.
He planned on recovering slowly to prepare for the Vuelta a España later in September, but Riccò asked that he race the Tour de France with him. Piepoli took third generation Erythropoietin – CERA – in preparation for the French Grand Tour, July 5 to 27.
"In a moment of weakness, madness. In a hurry, in silence ... I did not even have time to ask for reason. ... My justification: I will do it only to fill a hole in my preparation."
The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) found him positive from tests conducted on July 4 and 15. Piepoli won stage 10 to Hautacam, July 14, before the announcement of his positive doping control.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) called for a two-year suspension shortly after a meeting last month. Piepoli, known for his climbing skills, faces the end of his career.
"It is better if they would have given me four or six [years]. ... At 37 years old, with a wife and child, what I did is unjustifiable. ... I say, 'Don't dope because it will wear upon your conscience and dignity, forever.'"
Italy's anti-doping tribune will act on CONI's suspension request and determine the final sentence. It issued Riccò a ban of two years in October.