"I'm amazingly frustrated, but then again, I've never been so calm before in all my life." With his suspension now over and due to make his return to professional racing in less than a fortnight, what's kept the fire in Rory Sutherland's belly burning bright all those months, wonders Anthony Tan?
It's a defensive-sounding voice on the other end of the phone. He professes to be an athlete "tainted good". He never approached anyone for a new contract because he didn't want to grovel. When asked about Operación Puerto, he remarks that "it's pretty obvious there's something not right" with the way the sport's currently governed. He says he's incredibly frustrated, also admitting there's a good dose of anger to go along with it.
The last year and a half have largely been a journey of introspection, it seems, for this 23 year-old Australian who hails from his country's capital. Testing positive for a little-known substance he vehemently claims no knowledge of prior to the August test result at the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany), Rory Sutherland nevertheless chose not to appeal his 15-month sentence.
"In my situation, I guess it was just easier to bite the bullet, accept what happened, and move towards thinking about next year," he says. "I don't think anything would change the suspension anyway."
Money wasn't the main reason why he chose the route of acceptance rather than appeal. German cyclist and former Gerolsteiner rider Danilo Hondo, who tested positive for the drug Carphedon in March 2005, lost his appeal before the sport's highest authority, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in January this year - but not only did the CAS uphold the decision made by the national cycling federation, they extended the ban by another year.