Katusha's Luca Paolini has admitted to a cycle of addiction that has probably marked the end of his riding career.

You may remember that earlier this year Paolini was punted from the Tour de France after testing positive for cocaine.

Paolini out after testing positive to cocaine
Gent-Wevelgem champion Luca Paolini has been withdrawn from Katusha’s Tour de France line-up after testing positive to cocaine.

Just like every rider before him he denied the result, and even let loose a confusing rant on social media which did nothing to clarify the situation.

Paolini launches Twitter tirade as positive test hits home
Banned Italian cyclist Luca Paolini took to social media overnight to launch a Twitter tirade in the wake of his positive test for cocaine at the Tour de France.

However, the often likeable Italian hardman has now come clean while revealing a more serious addiction to sleeping pills which began after the death of his brother-in-law in 2004.

“It all started with sleeping pills, whose main active ingredient is benzodiazepine. But this creates an addiction,” Paolini said.

"I lost my clarity. And then came the cocaine. I did it almost without realising 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."

But Paolini's predicament does not appear to be an unusual one, with Katusha team doctor Massimo Besnati saying he knew of the addiction while also revealing the widespred use of sleeping pills in the sport.

"I'd be Pinocchio if I said that doping has been defeated, but now the use of sleeping medication is worse and a more widely used," Besnati said.

"It affects the person rather than the athletes. Riders take it because of the stress, for the progressive fatigue of stage races. Now that there are no longer pharmaceutical recovery products, riders, who refuse to use natural herbs, struggle to recover.

"He (Paolini) told us not to worry and said he'd be okay without it. I stopped giving him the prescription but he still managed to get hold if it.

"He used coffee. He brought a little coffee machine to races and drank five or six cups before coming down to breakfast, 180-200 miligrams of caffeine. That was needed to fight the effects left by the sleeping medication.

"But then you have to increase the dose and it's like a dog chasing its tail."

Paolini's case is yet to be dealt with by the UCI, but this admission will likely mean the 38-year-old is done as a professional. The good news is that he has sought treatment for the addiction and the admission is a likely outcome of its success.

What's the takeaway from this? The life of a professional cyclist is always a hard one and Paolini's story is unlikely to be an outlier. You cannot underestimate the effects of hard training and racing on their minds and bodies. Is it any surprise that they often take to a range of substances to mitigate the effects of a life in the saddle?

Wednesday 30 Dec 2015

Women's cycling is about to get bigger and better in 2016 with the International Cycling Union replacing the former Road World Cup with an expanded and more cohesive WorldTour concept. The series will involve 35 days of racing across nine countries and comprises of four stage and 13 single day races, with eight events to be broadcast live (TBA).

1 Strade Bianche, ITA - 05/03/16
2 Women's WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe, NED 
3 Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio, ITA 
4 Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields, BEL 
5 Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres, BEL 
6 La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, BEL 
7 Tour of Chongming Island, CHN 
8 Amgen Tour of California, USA 
9 Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, USA 
10 Aviva Womens Tour, GBR 
11 Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile, ITA
12 La Course by the Tour de France, FRA 
13 Prudential Ride London, GBR 
14 Crescent Vargarda UCI Women's WorldTour, SWE 
15 Crescent Vargarda UCI Women's WorldTour TTT, SWE 
16 GP de Plouay-Bretagne, FRA 
17 The Madrid Challenge by the Vuelta a Espana, ESP 

 

BMC will be without the services of Swiss rider Stefan Küng after a diagonisis of the Epstein-barr Virus, AKA glandular fever.

"There are already signs of improvement in the past week and I'm working closely with my doctors to monitor my progress before determining when I will be able to train again. At the moment I am taking things day by day and I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike," said Küng.

The virus is something that only close montitoring and rest can fix and the team has said that it has not decided on a racing shedule for the lanky 22-year-old.

"Stefan left the training camp a couple of days early and virology tests conducted by Dr. Patrik Noack of the Swiss Olympic Medical Center confirmed the diagnosis," BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Max Testa said.

"Although the illness is not worrisome, EBV, commonly known as Glandular Fever, requires a minimum of a few weeks' rest. BMC Racing Team and the Swiss National Cycling Team's physicians are monitoring Stefan's clinical improvements on a regular basis."

Bradley Wiggins is enjoying the switch back to the track so much that he now says he regrets saying he would retire from the sport. 

"I'm hoping to race until Christmas and see the year out, just because I have enjoyed the track so much in the last couple of months that I don't want to stop. I wish I hadn't said I'm going to retire. The changing of the goals helps keep the motivation fresh. Had I been training to win the Tour de France for 15 years, going out five, six, seven hours a day on the road, I would have retired years ago. But because I keep changing the event, it's almost like starting over again."