Serving a two-year suspension for returning a positive test for EPO, Italy’s Matteo Rabottini has admitted to using the drug and has spoken in detail about the consequences of cheating, which includes losing his family, job and home, in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I have no one,” Rabottini said in the interview. “In this hell that I live, all have deserted me. When the news of the positive broke, dad took it very badly. Since then, he and mom have not spoken to me anymore. Even my partner is gone, with my son Diego. There’s no one."
“They say that time fixes everything, but it does not. It’s just hell, that's all. Steps away from heaven, where everything is beautiful. To that I say to all young people, ‘I know what hell is. Do not make the same mistake, because when you know, you do not want to return to that hell. I assure you. Trust me, if you lose everything, you won’t go back there.’”
Rabottini returned a positive test for EPO in an out-of-competition test in August of 2014 and the UCI confirmed the test results on September 12 that year. He initially denied doping but was suspended from his team Neri Sottoli. His counter analysis was also positive for the banned substance.
His suspension began on August 7, 2014 and it is complete on May 6 this year. It was reduced by three months for cooperating with anti-doping authorities, in accordance with article 10.6.1. Rabottini said that he coorperated with the UCI on December 14, 2014 and that he later spoke with CONI’s anti-doping prosecutor.
Rabottini is best known for winning the climber's jersey and the stage to Piani dei Resinelli at the 2012 Giro d'Italia. In 2014, he was Neri Sottoli's team leader at the Giro d'Italia, finishing 17th overall and he finished third in the Italian road race championships behind Vincenzo Nibali and Davide Formolo.
In his interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Rabottini said that he had never used performance-enhancing substances before his positive test. When asked why he decided to take the drug, he said that he liked being at the top of the sport following his Giro stage win in 2012 but that he wasn’t able to get back to that level.
"I wanted to win. I wanted to get back to winning,” Rabottini said. “Everything I did was natural before. No one forces a rider to dope, he is always looking for something more. And so there comes a day when someone approaches you, and says ‘there is this new EPO, which does wonders’, and instead this EPO has destroyed everything.
“I did not ask for advice from anyone, I did not even do that, otherwise I would have said no. The desire was to go against the rules, and that’s one thing you can’t tell anyone, not even your family. In fact, I did it all when my parents were on vacation in early August of 2014, and I was alone at home.”
Rabottini said that he cooperated with CONI in its investigation into his drug use. He said that he got EPO from a former rider who was older than him and that he had given that person’s name in the investigation. He went on to detail his use of the drug.
“We met on the street, I bought a vial of EPO of 5,000 units, and a syringe that was sealed. I paid 300 Euros,” Rabottini told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “I went home, I put it in the fridge. I took 500 units, that day was August 3, and 500 the next day, directly into a vein in the arm.
“It was a new world for me, but in those moments you don’t fear anything. I didn’t think about the risks. For me, I was entering a beautiful world, which resolved everything. That had to be a miracle.
“On August 7, I was sleeping at home when they knocked [at the door] for an [anti-doping] check… At 7:40 the blood, then the urine. At 8:46 they left. But since then, I couldn’t sleep at night. On September 12, I got the first email and then a phone call from the UCI. I was with my son watching cartoons, so I had not seen the email. It was 17:30. That day my life was over, and I went into hell.”
Rabottini said in the interview that he has sold everything including his car, and would mortgage his home if he had to, because he has to pay a UCI fine of €91,000 for the positive test, which was 70 per cent of his €130,000 annual salary.
When Rabottini’s suspension is lifted on May 6 this year, he says that he one-day hopes to race again, saying, “I know I can do it on my own.”