Danilo Di Luca saw his two-year suspension for his positive test for CERA reduced by nine months at an Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) hearing on Friday, meaning that the Italian is free to return to racing with immediate effect. The reduction in Di Luca’s ban is understood to be in recognition of the information that he has provided to anti-doping investigators in Italy but he was at pains to explain that he had not pointed the finger at his fellow professional riders.
“My collaboration was not against athletes, but in favour of cycling,” Di Luca told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “In the past few weeks a lot of false things have been written. It’s been said that I named names during my collaboration and this isn’t true. Alessandro Petacchi, for example, who is a great friend of mine, knows well that I have never mentioned his name, just as I didn’t name any of my other fellow cyclists.”
Instead, it seems that Di Luca’s testimony was made up of more generalised descriptions of doping practices in the peloton at large. “I explained the methods I’ve seen in the years that I’ve raced to Benedetto Roberti and the public prosecutor’s office in Padua,” he said.
Di Luca, who tested positive for CERA at the 2009 Giro d’Italia, had been involved in other doping cases previously in his career, most notably the “Oil for Drugs” investigation centred on the activities of Dr. Carlo Santuccione. This inquiry saw Di Luca barred from the 2004 Tour de France and he would ultimately receive a three-month ban in late 2007.
While Di Luca protested his innocence after his positive test for CERA last season and has still never publicly confessed to doping, he nonetheless claimed that his collaboration with the anti-doping enquiries was a selfless act, undertaken with future generations of cyclists in mind.
“I want to tell children that it’s not true that you have to dope to win,” Di Luca said. “Whoever is born a champion stays a champion, whoever is born a gregario stays a gregario. Doping does not change you. I hope that my collaboration can help bring young people into this sport, which is beautiful and above all, a great school of life.”
The Italian also said that he could understand CONI anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri’s recent pronouncement on the widespread nature of doping. “He has always had athletes before him who had doping problems, but I’m in professional cycling since 1999 and I can say that things have changed,” claimed Di Luca. “The majority of riders are clean.”
However, in the same breath, Di Luca was already speaking of his lofty ambitions for next season. The man from Spoltore is believed to be in talks with a number of teams for 2011 and he is looking to ride in the biggest races once again.
“I want a ProTour team,” he said. “My objectives are the Giro and the classics. Races that I’ve always done and that I’ve also won. I’m missing a world title. That could be the highlight of my career.
“I’ve already started my winter training, but even when I was suspended I always trained. Sure, I missed racing, so now I must make up for the time spent away from competition. From November 1, I’ll be back in the saddle.”
Di Luca’s initial €280,000 fine for his positive test for CERA was also reduced by €106,400 as a result of his collaboration.
In the meantime, Di Luca is running the Pescara half-marathon on Sunday, a town in which he has also recently invested in a large sports centre.
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.