Speaking openly for the first time since testing for positive for cocaine during this year’s Tour de France, with the Italian newspaper, Gazette dello Sport, in addition to cocaine use, Luca Paolini also admitted that he’s addicted to sleeping tablets – calling himself a “slave to the pills”.
Since being suspended by his Katusha team, Paolini has spent time in a clinic undergoing treatment.
“I was a slave to sleeping pills, it was very sad,” Paolini told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I quickly realized that this was no accident. I got rid of the sporting aspect, but I was reborn on the human side. No, I do not know if I would do it again. Cocaine made me open my eyes and realize what it was like to be dependent on sleeping pills.
“Thanks to the cocaine episode, I’m back to being a person. I have returned to living. If this is the price to pay to feel good as a person, I am more than willing to accept it… I take full responsibility, and I must not look for excuses. But I tell you this story so that people do not repeat the same mistakes.”
Back in July, Paolini took to Twitter soon after he tested positive for cocaine, denying the accusations and apologizing for the incident. However, during his recent interview, the Italian rider admitted to using cocaine, which he said stemmed from his addiction to sleeping pills, following the death of his brother 10 years ago.
“It all started with sleeping pills, whose main active ingredient is benzodiazepine [a class of psychoactive drug that can alter brain function –ed]. But this creates an addiction,” he explained. “I needed a good night’s rest to meet the physical and mental effort the next day. I started in 2004 when my brother died. The real problem is everyday life. There are big problems and smaller, but it all adds to this very stressful sport. Mentally, it affects you a lot. It’s at the time you start taking the substance, and that is sad. These errors led me to cocaine.
“The worst occurs at night when benzodiazepine gains power I lose lucidity. And then came the cocaine. For me, it was inevitable. I did it almost without realizing it. I was alone that night, I was alone during the two weeks of training in the mountains in mid-June, before the Tour, when I took cocaine. And I cannot forgive myself. I am a husband, father, and a prominent sportsman, I had to be an example, I betrayed a generation that believed in me. This is what hurts me.”
The UCI announced earlier this month, that Paolini’s case has been referred to the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal, where judgement will be made on whether to suspend him or not.
In the meantime, Katusha team manager Viatcheslav Ekimov told the media, that Paolini could race for the team again in the event he’s cleared.
But for Paolini, he’s very much aware, that a decision by the UCI to suspend him, could spell the end of his career.
“I do not know if I will have the chance to put a number on my back, but the biggest lesson I received: I must not hide everything inside when there are problems I have to ask for help.”
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