Lobato wants to return to racing at 'highest level' after sacking from LottoNL-Jumbo

Juan Jose Lobato has said that he remains hopeful that he can return to racing after being sacked by LottoNL-Jumbo for taking unsanctioned sleeping medication during a training camp in December.

In an open letter posted to his Facebook page, the 29-year-old explained the situation that led to his sacking and denied being addicted to sleeping medication.

"Through this open letter, I want to explain everything that has happened in recent months and, especially, I want to announce my intention to continue competing at the highest level. Cycling is my passion and I feel stronger than ever," Lobato wrote.

Lobato was sent home from a team training camp in mid-December along with young riders Pascal Eenkhoorn and Antwan Tolhoek. Eenkhoorn was found in the lobby of the team hotel ‘acting strangely’ before a disorientated Tolhoek was discovered in his room. Lobato was later found asleep and the team called an ambulance when they failed to wake him after repeated attempts.

Eenkhoorn and Tolhoek were handed two-month suspensions – which are due to end in the coming weeks – while Lobato was fired. He had been due to start his season at the Tour Down Under last month.

In his open letter, Lobato sought to set the record straight on some of the rumours that had been circulating following the incident, stating that there had been no alcohol involved. He apologised to the team and said that he underwent a series of tests that showed he did not have any signs of sleep medication in his system.

“I would like to start by explaining what happened on December 14, 2017, at the LottoNL-Jumbo training camp,” he wrote. “Although I will no longer represent their colours, I must apologise to the team for having breached part of its regulations. Finally, they decided to fire me and we reached an agreement to rescind the contract.

“However, I do want to deny some information published at the time. There is no doubt that there was no party or the presence of alcoholic beverages. The only thing that is certain is that I took a medication to be able to sleep, a substance that in no case is for doping.

“I would also like to express that I do not have any type of addiction to these substances. I have already done several medical examinations, with exhaustive tests. And the result is clear: there are no traces of these sleep medications in my urine. Moreover, I am totally open to submit to more tests to prove that I am not addicted to any type of medication.”

A difficult 2017

The 2017 season proved to be a difficult one for Lobato, off the bike, following the death of his uncle and a ‘difficult separation’. In his letter, he said that his personal problems made it very difficult to sleep and he resorted to the pills in order to help him.

“It is true that I have needed this medication at certain times during 2017, due to personal problems,” he wrote. “In my case, in 2017, I lived the hardest year of my life. I had to face a difficult separation and mourned the death of my uncle due to an accident at work, a family member who was key in my development as a cyclist and as a person and who left us at only 43 years of age. Due to all these problems of a personal nature, falling asleep was not easy and I had to resort, wrongly, to this medication to rest well.”

Lobato concluded his letter by thanking those that had supported him and reiterating his desire to race again and find a new team. He has continued training since he was fired from LottoNL-Jumbo and said that cycling has helped him to get through the challenges of 2017.

“I find myself without a team and I also need to publicly express my desire to continue competing at the highest level,” said Lobato.

“These are very hard times and I would like to thank you for all the support you have shown me during this month and a half. In life, you have to never give up and I hope to have the opportunity to compete again as soon as possible.

“The only thing I ask for: an opportunity to race. I have been training very hard these months to be able to find a team again and enjoy this sport again. The sensations are excellent and thanks to cycling I have recovered my smile and I have managed to overcome all the difficulties in 2017. On this path of recovery, I only need one last step: the return to putting a jersey and shorts on and being able to compete.”

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