MILAN (VN) — Danilo Di Luca does not regret anything, despite a pro career tainted by three EPO doping positives, a Giro d’Italia expulsion, and a lifetime ban from cycling. The Italian released a memoir this week recounting his life on the bike, which is full of shocking details.
“Bestie da Vittoria,” 288 pages for 17.50 euros, arrived on bookshelves Tuesday in Italy. The timing is near perfect, a week before the country’s biggest race, the Giro d’Italia, sets off. It is full of lines almost as colorful as his cycling career.
“I don’t regret anything,” the 40-year-old wrote.
Di Luca won the Giro d’Italia in 2007, but left question marks on that edition and cast a shadow on others in the years to come. He kept his 2007 title even if his urine tests from Monte Zoncolan were deemed suspicious. So clean, his urine was sometimes called ‘angel’s pee.’
Later that year, an oil-for-drugs doping investigation showed that he had used EPO in 2004 resulting in a roughly three-month ban. In 2009, with Lance Armstrong riding the Giro for the first and only time, he won two stages and placed second overall. Officials disqualified those results after exams showed that his ride was EPO-fueled.
Di Luca describes it all in his book. Even saying how he thought about his preparations for the 2013 Giro while driving home to Pescara: “I went over the upcoming training, studied the stages that I could win and how I would continue to ‘treat myself.’”
Di Luca’s book recalls his career with many equally troubling lines:
His career spanned from 1998 to 2013: “I could not have not doped.”
Di Luca won all three Ardennes classics, a Giro, and stages in the Vuelta a España: “Doping improves your performance between 5 and 7 percent, and maybe 10 to 12 percent when you are in a peak shape. If I had never doped, I wouldn’t have ever won.” He rode for teams including Saeco, Liquigas, LPR, Katusha: “Doping is not addictive, but it is an instrument of power: Who wins brings in the money to himself, to the team and the sponsors.”
He indicated he used some form of doping his entire career: “But I only started the serious stuff in 2001.”
His 2013 Giro preparation: “It included doping and non-doping substances: vitamins, amino acids, supplements, protein, EPO, cortisone, hormones of various types, corticosteroids, testosterone.”
He used 500 units of EPO on April 28, 2013: “Fifteen years ago, before the hematocrit controls, some would do up to 4,000 units per day. Madness.” The testers came the next morning and he began the Giro on May 4. On a snowed-out stage three weeks in, the test result came out. It was his third EPO positive, and he was finished with cycling for good.
The biological passport came about in 2008, in Di Luca’s time: “It saved our lives. It stopped us all killing ourselves.”
Di Luca would inject everywhere: “Put the tourniquet and inject yourself, like a junkie. If you miss the vein, try again with the other arm. Even under the skin in the belly, the legs … It’s part of the job. If you get caught, then you timed it wrong, because everyone knows how many hours must pass before you won’t show positive. ”
The new anti-doping test for EPO brought about micro-dosing and brought back the blood transfusions: “It was complicated. You need the bags, sterilized and suited for blood. Only the hospital has them. Then there’s the problem of where you keep them. I know some cyclists who gave them to a masseur, a wife or a girlfriend. Then one day, they find themselves being blackmailed: €50,000, or even 100,000 to 150,000. Living a criminal life can transform those around you.”
But he would not speak out on the problem: “The only thing worse than being caught is having the reputation of a Judas.”
He also contends that the doping affected his libido. On the eve of the 1999 Giro di Lombardia, he had a one-night stand: “Cyclists are known for being vigorous service providers, it’s all the testosterone they produce and devour. [The sex] took all my strength and softened my legs, and the next day I have 260 kilometers to race. I took some drugs to help stimulate the production of testosterone. I was strong, I was at front the whole race.” He finished second to Mirko Celestino that day.
The Giro has its temptations as well: “It’s full of girls: those from the caravan, the village, the podium girls. And the cyclists are full of testosterone, even if they are tired. They always want to screw. A caravan girl gave me her number. That night, we were in the same hotel. After dinner, I passed by her room and betrayed [my wife] Valentina.”
Valentina left him in the 2011 Giro: “I’m sorry she left, but I don’t suffer. Bike riding is suffering, the rest just a pity.”
He knew nothing else but cycling: “I lived in a bubble for years, I never took a train on my own, I never cooked an egg, I never truly knew the person sleeping next to me in bed. I lived in an altered reality. It was like always being on holiday, I thought only about climbing on my bike and winning.”