Mauro Santambrogio has claimed he tested positive for testosterone because he had been prescribed the drug by a urologist in order to become a father with his new girlfriend after being diagnosed with erectile and fertility problems.
The Italian rider, who was due to race with the Amore e Vita Continental team in 2015 after his ban for EPO ended on November 2, was tested by the UCI on October 22 in an out of competition test. The UCI announced his A sample had resulted positive today (December 18) and immediately suspended him.
Santambrogio told Cyclingnews that he informed the anti-doping inspectors at the time of the test that he had recently completed a three-month course of Andriol (the product name for testosterone) and the prostrate drug Aprosten. He also claimed he informed UCI doctor Mario Zorzoli who originates from Como, close to Santambrogio's home.
He had believed it would not be considered as a positive case because he was not a licence holder at the time of the test and had not yet even decided to return to racing after his ban. He only contacted Amore e Vita on October 28 and signed a contract two days later.
"I've got nothing hide. I was tested but I was under the effects of a treatment with Andriol. My testosterone levels were low and I had erection problems, plus I had fertility problems. That's why I was prescribed Andriol," Santambrogio told Cyclingnews.
"I intended to make a comeback in 2015 in July, but I also wanted to think about my long-term future and have a child, like any normal person. That's why I started the treatment. If I'd decided to wait I could have had further problems and perhaps never become a father. I didn't have any offers from teams at the time and didn't know if I'd be able to race. I knew that at the earliest I'd race again in February and the testosterone would not have given me any benefit then."
Santambrogio claimed he showed the anti-doping inspectors his prescription for Andriol. He was stunned that the UCI publicly announced his case before he was allowed to explain why he tested positive. The UCI did not reply to calls from Cyclingnews about the Santambrogio case and said in its announcement that it would not make any further comment at this stage of the procedure.
"Before they took my blood and urine I told them and showed them the prescription. They also took a photo of it. It was also written on the anti-doping forms that I'd been treated with Andriol," Santambrogio claimed.
"I called Mario Zorzoli and didn't have problem telling about my treatment. He's from nearby where I live and he told me that it's be taken into consideration. Then today I got the email saying I was positive.
"Nobody has contacted me from the UCI before today. I don't understand why. I've got nothing to hide because I know that all the proof is on my side."
Even though Santambrogio was serving a ban, he is still bound, under UCI anti-doping rules, to remain subject to testing. Andriol is prohibited both in- and out-of competition under the WADA code, and the UCI's anti-doping regulations state that, "Use of any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method to increase “low-normal” levels of any endogenous hormone is not considered an acceptable therapeutic intervention", so Santambrogio would not have been eligible for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) by the UCI.
Doping violations aside, the use of Andriol might not have even achieved its supposedly intended result of increasing fertility. While natural testosterone is required for fertility in men, Andriol, a synthetic form of testosterone used as a treatment for hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction, has the unfortunate side-effect of decreasing sperm production and creating fertility problems, recent studies have shown.
Santambrogio told Cyclingnews that he will not request a counter-analysis because he knows he had testosterone in his urine. He is ready to fight to clear is name. The Amore e Vita team has also said it will support him.
"I'm going to try to prove that I didn't do anything wrong. But if the world of cycling refuses me to make a comeback, I'll accept their verdict. But I haven't wanted to cheat anybody. I was simply being treated for a problem and thinking about a future a father," he said.
In October 2013 Santambrogio caused panic amongst his friends and followers on Twitter by writing "Addio Mondo" – "Goodbye World". However huge support seemed to convince him to rebuild his life. Gazzetta dello Sport reports that he returned to working part-time as a baker.
He wanted to reassure people that he had no similar thoughts this time.
"I'm ok. I'm fine," he concluded.