Leogrande talks about his two-year doping sanction

Kayle Leogrande (Rock Racing)

Kayle Leogrande (Rock Racing) (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Kayle Leogrande, who completed a two-year sanctioning last November for a non-analytical positive will return to the North American peloton in 2011 with the MonsterMediaRacing.com team.

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The American sprinter recently admitted that he was guilty and alleged that the now defunct Rock Racing team, for which he was racing at the time, advised him to deny all charges.

"In regard to my suspension, I find myself exhausted with every part of the subject," Leogrande told Cyclingnews. "However, I'm going to be honest, because I find it to be something that will always be looked at in a negative light, so being half honest would only be a waste of time and energy on my part. While I was on Rock Racing I was advised by staff to say I was innocent and not to admit anything."

When asked if he would continue to maintain his innocence in regard to the US Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) two-year sanction for a non-analytic case in 2008, Leogrande said, "Now after serving my suspension I can say I was guilty. It's not something I'm proud of, and I just want to move on with my life. Over the last two years I've struggled with many things that my bad decisions brought into my life from this, financially, and mentally, and at the end of the day I feel grateful to have learned valuable lessons, and the ability to see things more clearly."

On December 1, 2008, USADA announced that a three-person, independent panel of arbitrators from the American Arbitration Association (AAA)/North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Kayle Leogrande committed an anti-doping rule violation. The panel found that Leogrande used the prohibited substance erythropoietin (EPO), when competing in The Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic, on July 26, 2007.

It was reported that Leogrande produced a 'borderline' A-sample, during the Superweek series. However, he did not produce a positive test nor did he admit to guilt during an USADA hearing. The two-year sanctioning was carried out as a non-analytical positive based on Leogrande's admission to former Rock Racing soigneur Suzanne Sonye that he had used performance enhancing products. Furthermore, Joe Papp provided USADA with evidence, photos and a hand-written note, in the anti-doping case against Leogrande.

"I did not have a borderline positive at Superweek, just to be clear on the facts, my test was negative," Leogrande said. "During the arbitration they were trying to say it was almost positive, but it didn't make sense to me. It's either positive, or not. USADA wanted to test my B sample, which I personally didn't have a problem with. However, Mike Ball [owner of the Rock Racing team] insisted we file a lawsuit to prevent them from doing so. He felt that they were breaking their own rules by wanting to do that."

Ultimately the panel ruled that Leogrande's, "clear and repeated admissions of doping, which in and of themselves may be sufficient to establish an anti-doping rule violation, are corroborated by a significant amount of circumstantial as well as scientific evidence," according to a USADA press release.

When asked to clarify what he was guilty of, Leogrande was reluctant to answer and said, "I'd rather not go into details about all that...I just want to leave it alone. I was guilty of making bad decisions."

Leogrande filed a defamation lawsuit against Sonye after a telephone conversation between her and retired former professional Matt Decanio discussed Leogrande's admission to using performance-enhancing products was posted on the internet.

"Rock Racing proceeded with a lawsuit against Suzanne Sonye that ended up backfiring," Leogrande said.

A California Superior Court Judge dismissed the case against Sonye and Leogrande is still making monthly installments to her legal team to pay off their $14,000 fee for defending Sonye in his defamation lawsuit.

Leogrande competed under the Rock Racing outfit for two seasons in 2007 and 2008. The team was run by Michael Ball, Chief Executive Officer of Rock & Republic, and well known for its "bad boy" image after hiring several riders that were sanctioned for doping infractions such as Tyler Hamilton along with riders implicated in the Spanish Operacion Puerto scandal: Oscar Sevilla, Francisco Mancebo, Jose Enrique Gutierrez and Santiago Botero. The team failed to secure a license with the International Cycling Union (UCI) in 2010 when it was announced that the clothing company filed for bankruptcy.

"I knew better than to get involved with Mike Ball from the beginning, but saw glimpses of goodness in him, and the team," Leogrande said. "That was all smoke and mirrors unfortunately, and reality took hold and I was left having to be responsible for many things, including the cost of the lawsuit judgement Suzanne got against me. In the end I feel being suspended, and being forced to hit the brakes was a huge blessing in disguise, because it all allowed me to see my life outside of cycling. I was able to re-connect with my children, my family, and my crew at my tattoo shop.

"Suddenly I saw that I had much to be grateful for, and had a very blessed life," he said. "Not that I didn't see that, or realize it before, I was just always on the run, and never took the time to slow down and relax and realize that cycling was simply me riding a bike and nothing more. Sometimes I realize this and laugh, and wonder why I made such reckless decisions that got myself suspended."

Reevaluating his life as a professional cyclist

Leogrande stated that his two-year sanctioning gave him an opportunity to reevaluate his life priorities and revise his goals in the sport of cycling. He recently announced his intention to return to competitive bike racing through a video filed on YouTube earlier this month. His newly formed elite team is based in California and sponsored through Monster Media owner Derric Swinfard.

"I'm very excited to be racing again, and the idea of this team organically happened in my mind as I began riding in September of 2009 after taking an entire year off from riding my bike," Leogrande said. "I wanted to start a small team with friends, to simply race, and get back to the original reason I began racing in the first place, for the love of the sport. Somewhere along the way in 2007, and '08 I lost sight of that in all the confusion, chaos, and distractions that Rock Racing brought.

"I evaluated my goals by asking myself how I wanted to be remembered not only as a bicycle racer, but as a father, and a person," he said. "Life is too short, and time is the one precious thing none of us can ever get back. If there's anything that I've learned from this, it's the ability to believe in myself, and to see the beauty, and greatness all around me. Cycling can be a very shallow, selfish, and negative sport but it doesn't have to be.

"I can honestly say that I find myself still feeling that way, and that's one of the reasons I still love the sport so much and continue to race, and train," he said. "I can't please everybody, and there's going to be people that don't like me for one reason or another, but at the end of the day I can look into the mirror and I'm happy with the person that I am today."

MonsterMediaRacing.com will compete on a national level and primarily focus on an abundance of California events. The nine-rider roster also includes Andrew Ramage, Ashley Knights Jr., CJ Williams, Jeremiah Wiscovitch, Joe Wiley, Josh Webster, Max Hernandez and Rudy Napolitano.

"My decision to come back to cycling was one that took some real searching within myself and an ability to be honest and realistic with my life, being able to balance everything evenly," Leogrande said. "I really had to ask myself if I wanted to make the sacrifices needed to be competitive in this sport.

"Together we have started something that I believe will bear fruit and bring positive things into our local cycling community," he said. "I really would like to be consistent throughout the year and to enjoy every race. I like certain races more than others naturally, and would like to win another National Championship and build a strong chemistry within our team."

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