Controversial Italian Danilo Di Luca returns to competition this weekend at the Mallorca Challenge in Spain with his new Katusha team.
The “Killer of Spoltore” tested positive for CERA-EPO during the 2009 Giro d’Italia, where he finished second overall, but saw his ban reduced by nine months after he apparently cooperated with Italian authorities regarding his doping improprieties.
Di Luca, who turned 35 last month, said he won’t be keen to talk about his doping past if journalists come knocking.
“The past taught me a lesson, but today I don´t feel like looking back no more. I face head-high the competitions of the new season and, for me, that means a lot,” Di Luca said on the team’s Web site. “I feel like I´m a new man, a rider that, after a long process of self-criticism, moved towards an important maturation. I know I made a mistake, but I atoned for my disqualification and today, after a long year of deliberations and thinking, I have a second chance with new motivations and incentives.”
Di Luca had several close calls with anti-doping authorities before finally getting busted in 2009. Italian authorities reduced his ban and cleared Di Luca to return to competition last fall, though the season was almost over.
Katusha defended its decision to sign up Di Luca, with team brass insisting that he has promise to turn his back on his illicit past.
Di Luca, meanwhile, says he’s thankful for a second chance and vows to race clean.
“I´m very excited. There is usually a lot of expectation between seasons, so imagine when the waiting lasts one year,” he said. “I really don´t know what to expect from Vuelta a Mallorca: I need this race for finding the races´ rhythm again, knowing my teammates better, and getting ready for this season´s big competitions.”
Katusha for Mallorca Challenge, Feb. 6-10: Giampaolo Caruso, Danilo Di Luca, Juan Horrach Ripoll, Petr Ignatenko, Sergei Ivanov, Vladimir Karpets, Alexander Kolobnev, Alberto Losada, Daniel Moreno, Artem Ovechkin, Joaquin Rodriguez, Egor Silin, Maxime Vantomme, Eduard Vorganov.