Colombia's Robinson Lopez, who recently tested positive for CERA, has stated that he was unaware that he took the banned substance. The under-23 national champion said he took the drug thinking that it was a legal vitamin based on bad advice from a friend.
"It was all part of a deception that was done to me," Lopez told Ciclo21. "A person advised me, but he did it very badly, and apparently gave me some vitamins, which I consumed without knowing what I was getting into.
"I did not know that these supposed vitamins were a forbidden substance. It was not my intention to consume something forbidden."
Colombian newspapers reported on Monday that the 20-year-old returned a positive test for the substance, also known as 'third generation' EPO, at the Vuelta a Colombia in August.
He was racing for the team Boyacá es Para Vivirla. He finished 14th overall and was best young rider at the stage race. Earlier in the season, he had won the under-23 road race at the Colombian nationals and was eighth in the time trial the previous day.
Lopez told Ciclo21 that he consumed the drug one month before the Vuelta a Colombia.
Based on his strong performance at that race, he lined up a contract with the Italian Continental team Unierueo-Trevigiani but the team told Cyclingnews that it was not officially finalised when the team learned of the positive test.
"Today my career is marred by this situation because, as I said, I was the victim of a deception," Lopez said.
Lopez declined to name the person who allegedly advised him to unknowingly take CERA but said that they were not linked to Boyacá es Para Vivirla or any affiliate of the team, including Movistar’s Grand Tour contender Nairo Quintana, who is reported to be a sponsor of the team.
"What's more this took my coaches and Nairo Quintana by surprise when, I came out positive," Lopez said.
"I am very sorry to have believed in a person that claimed to be my friend. I find myself very sad, very confused with what I did. I sincerely regret it."
Lopez has the right to request analysis of his B-sample before any sanction is decided. However, the last person to test positive for CERA, Joao Marcelo Pereira Gaspar, received a four-year ban this year.
Lopez said he was willing to cooperate with the UCI and thus it is possible he will not ask for a counter-analysis of his sample, reported Ciclo21. He could receive a suspension of two years rather than four if he does cooperate.
"I told them that I was willing to collaborate so that my sanction is not so long," Lopez said. "The idea is to do it to build trust for a clean sport and so that the younger guys who come up behind do not trust people who claim to be your friend.
"I did it autonomously. Neither my colleagues, nor trainers nor Nairo knew. They have only given me all their support since I came to the team. I just want to apologize."