Ben Hill is back on the bike and back in yellow after facing a two-year suspension.
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7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

The Australian was suspended from racing by the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) after taking a substance containing banned methylhexaneamine in 2012.

But now the 24 year old is cementing his comeback to the sport by winning two consecutive stages and taking the race lead in the SBS Bank Tour of Southland in New Zealand.

For Hill it is a positive turn of events after he unintentionally consumed the banned substance while competing in the 2012 Tour of Tasmania.

"I finally feel like the cycling Gods are finally giving me a break," Hill told Cycling Central from Invercargill after winning the Bluff Hill stage.

"At the end of the 2012 season at the Tour of Tasmania I was racing with an NRS team. I asked if any one had any caffeine - some no doze. A team-mate said that he had some caffeine powder, like 'pre race', which is a legal supplement. But it was a bit more than just caffeine powder.

"I got tested (after the stage), and after I came back from testing he said, 'that thing I gave you I think it might be dodgy.' We checked it and sure enough it was on the ASADA website as banned. It was not what he told me it was."

The substance, which Hill believes his team-mate knew was illegal, was a supplement called Jack3d, which contained methylhexaneamine, a common stimulant.

Horrified, Hill was eager to rectify his mistake.

"I called ASADA two days later. I put pre-race down when they asked you in the testing what you had, because that's what I thought I had.

"It took about three months before I got a call saying I had a positive result. I was a bit optimistic that it might have been okay.

"They back-dated my sentence to that phone call because I was practically confessing."

"I freaked out as soon as my team-mate told me and I tried to do the best thing I could do. But it didn't really work out in the end because they still stung me for the maximum time (two years), so I don't think it made much difference."

Despite battling with ASADA for nearly 18 months Hill could not get the suspension shortened. The team-mate who supplied him with powder was eventually convinced to confess to ASADA.

"He went and talked to them himself, which didn't really work out for me that well. The only way that you can get a reduced sentence is by providing information that leads to a suspension. But that didn't work a.) because he didn't have a suspension (but he does now because they took about two years to get that done) and b.) because he had already confessed himself I provided no new information. So I got a bit screwed over there."

Cycling Central has contacted ASADA for comment on why Hill was given the maximum sanction despite his apparent cooperation, but at the time of publishing have received no response.

In the early stages of the saga, with a promising ride lined up for 2013, Hill continued to train hard.

"I thought I'm a clean athlete, surely they can't give me the full ban. It might just be a slap on the wrist, three months, and then I could race. After three months I was still training, then I got the news.

The then 22 year old was forced to sit out the next two formative years of his career.

"I was coming up and on the border of getting a good gig and setting myself up, and then it was all taken away from me, at an age when it is make or break.

"I stopped riding for a little bit, I moved home. I was really depressed. After about six months I decided that I needed to get on with my life and I moved back to Canberra. I started riding again - it was my social outlet because all of my friends ride.

"I rode and worked for a bit while I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I decided I wasn't going to go back to uni, that I wanted to be a bike rider. I'm not going to try to waste this second year, so I got back on the bike and started training really hard. When I came back, I wanted to hit the ground running and be better than I was before. It's paying off now."

With his suspension ending on the 10 October this year, Hill was straight back into racing at Melbourne to Warrnambool. Punctures put an end to his race, but he finished eighth in Grafton to Inverell after missing the winning break.

Now though he has two Southland stage victories under his belt and the yellow jersey to defend with his McCullums Group team.

"I thought I had good form, but the race has panned out quite well for me. I didn't think I would go this well. I've got a bit lucky.

"I'm not very confident at all (of defending the lead). I'm not the best climber, so I think I might struggle up the next hill. If I was in the bunch today I don't think it would have worked out quite so well."

Despite a tough start, Hill is more determined than ever to make it as a cyclist.

"I want to go pro. I want to make a living out of it for at least a few years. I think I have come back too late this season to secure a paid ride for next year. So I will ride the NRS next year, hopefully with Charter Mason."