By Andrew Hood
Basque climber Iban Mayo says he won’t mount a professional comeback despite having served out his two-year racing ban for an EPO positive in 2007.
Now 32, the once-feared climber called his controversial doping case a “witch hunt” and told the Bilbao daily El Correo he will not try to return to the professional ranks.
“I had already decided I wasn’t going to return after the two years’ sanction. I could do it, because I served out the punishment, but I don’t like the circumstances around cycling and I decided not to continue,” he told El Correo. “I have no intention of returning to race.”
Mayo’s case was controversial because the UCI re-tested a second sample to confirm the sanction.
Mayo tested positive for traces of the banned blood booster during the 2007 Tour, when he finished 16th overall racing with Saunier Duval, but the follow-up B sample returned “inconclusive,” and the Spanish federation cleared him of wrong-doing.
His first sample was tested by French authorities, but the follow-up, B-sample was tested in a Belgian lab because the French lab was closed for vacation. UCI then had the French lab re-test the B sample, which produced the evidence needed to slap Mayo with a two-year racing ban.
Mayo claimed the UCI breached anti-doping protocol by re-testing the second sample, but the UCI challenged the case in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and won.
Mayo’s racing ban ended this summer, but he said the bitter experience soured his desire to try to find a new team.
“It was very hard to leave cycling for this, especially with everything that surrounded my case. It was very strange, every time you think about it, you understand it less,” he said. “Three analyses is a very strange story, and because of this among other things, I decided not to come back, because I believe it was a witch hunt.”
It wasn’t the first time Mayo ran afoul with anti-doping authorities. In June of 2007, he was cleared of testing positive for testosterone during the Giro d’Italia because the UCI ruled he had not breached any doping rules despite high levels.
Mayo was once one of the most-feared rivals of Lance Armstrong, winning a stage at l’Alpe d’Huez in 2003 and barnstorming to victory in the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré. He said he will continue riding his bike as a “hobby.”
Here is the complete Mayo interview in El Correo.