Mauro Santambrogio on how the internet pulled him back from brink of suicide

Vini Fantini rider reflects on the support he has received since tweeting 'Goodbye world' on Thursday

by Simon_MacMichael   October 12, 2013  

Mauro Santambrogio after winning Giro 2013 Stage 14 (picture Gian Mattia D'Alberto:LaPresse:RCS Sport)

Italian cyclist Mauro Santambrogio has spoken of how the support he received from friends and strangers alike on Twitter on Thursday night helped pull him back from the brink of suicide.

The Vini Fantini rider, currently suspended after testing positive for EPO through a sample taken after he won Stage 14 of this year’s Giro d’Italia – official results of his B sample have not been revealed yet, but it is rumoured to be negative – had not used Twitter since news of that positive test was revealed in early June.

On Thursday evening, however, he broke his silence on the social network in the most dramatic fashion possible, tweeting: “Goodbye world.” A second tweet added: “I can’t go on any more.”

If it was a cry for help, it was swiftly answered. Among those to respond was Alessandra De Stefano, who presents Italian state broadcaster RAI’s coverage of the Giro d’Italia and other races.

After trying unsuccessfully to phone him, and seriously concerned about his wellbeing, she eventually managed to contact Santambrogio via text message.

The support she and others poured out towards him helped him pull through those dark hours. “The affection I felt towards me from the internet saved me,” he explained.

Santambrogio was speaking yesterday to Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Ciro Scognamiglio in a bar near his home in Inevrigo, 25km north of Milan.

He reflected: “I reached the bottom and perhaps fell even further than that.”

The rider, who turned 29 last Monday, explained that he was now feeling better, after realising the scale of what he was contemplating, and that he planned to see a psychologist yesterday evening.

Referring to the reaction from both the public and within the sport when his positive test result for EPO was announced in June – Filippo Pozzato said that the Vini Fantini rider didn’t have “a crumb of sense in his head” – Santambrogio explained: “I have been condemned as an athlete but above all as a man, and it is the latter that has damaged me. It has hurt me deeply. I’m not a criminal.

“I went in a moment from hero to zero. It wasn’t that I might have become Giro champion, but in my own little world, in my surroundings, I felt like a little god.

“I’ve lost everything, I have become a pariah. Cycling is my life and staying away from it is hurting me.

“On Sunday, I began watching il Lombardia, my favourite race, my home one [Santambrogio lives just a few kilometres from Lecco, where the race finishes]. But I couldn’t cope with it. I turned the TV off and went to bed.”

 

Santambrogio revealed that he continues to get out on his bike now and again, “but it’s not the same thing.

“This summer I went to Sardinia, to get away from it all, and I took my bike but never used it.

“One time, riding near home, I heard an amateur cyclist say, ‘Santombrogio the doper, you’ve ruined cycling.’

He admitted that what others thought of him had started to play on his mind more and more, and had even begun to fantasise that strangers were talking about him, indicating fellow patrons of the bar at another table.

“Maybe they don’t know who I am. But in this type of situation, I imagine that they’re talking badly of me. It’s a difficult thing to cope with.”

But the situation regarding that positive test for EPO at the Giro, and lack of news about the B sample, means Santambrogio, suspended from racing, remains in limbo.

His lawyer – coincidentally, the daughter of one of Italian cycling’s greats, Felice Gimondi – has not yet received an official communication from the UCI about that B sample.

Meanwhile, Santambrogio is finding ways of filling up the small hours, including, perhaps improbably, working as a baker on the night shift at a bakery owned by a friend who was worried about him wrestling with his demons during sleepless nights.

“I’ve done it a few times, from 2 or 3am through to 10 or 11am. I’ve even learnt the trade.

“But to tell the truth,” he added, “I still see myself as a rider. It’s the job I’ve always dreamt of doing.”

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Enjoy the treasures of life Mauro. They are there for all to discover.

From an early morning sunrise breaking on a mountain top, to the embrace from a friend or loved one, the best things in life are free and pure.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1504 posts]
12th October 2013 - 18:44

12 Likes

good luck,move forward and fuck all the haters.
doping is not cool but ultimately its just sport.

do the ban and behave next time but dont throw yourself off a cliff over a bike race.

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
12th October 2013 - 18:58

10 Likes

russyparkin well put. Another reminder surely that due process should be respected - of course it's easy to assume with doping stories that there's no smoke without fire but we're talking about people's lives. Tiernan-Locke situation a case in point, whatever is going on there JTL is still a good few steps away from being guilty of anything yet his reputation is tarnished.

ragtimecyclist's picture

posted by ragtimecyclist [151 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:20

7 Likes

There's so much more to life than bike racing. Hang on in there Santa.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3678 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:24

13 Likes

It's the same old story. If he was seriously considering doing the unimaginable, he wouldn't have advertised it first. The classic 'cry for help'. Bravo, chapeau and well done to those who supported him and (possibly) brought him back from the edge, but I don't honestly think he would have actually gone through with it.

Let's not forget the bloke has cheated his opposition, fans, sponsors etc. He's throwing his teddies out of the cot because he's not the centre of attention anymore. For anyone to ever feel that killing themselves is the only answer is horrible, but he doesn't really deserve any sympathy for what he's done.

I'm torn with this one. I'd be utterly devastated if any of the pros felt that suicide was the only answer after being banned for doping, but he hasn't actually committed suicide. He hasn't even tried, he's just written a few attention-seeking words on twitter. I could do that right now.

None of you would know that I'm actually sitting here with a beer with a smile on my face!

Didn't Di Luca pull something like this?

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [110 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:31

11 Likes

Do me a f**king favour therealsmallboy.....read the article

"official results of his B sample have not been revealed yet, but it is rumoured to be negative "

So if that's correct....he has done nothing wrong, cheated no-one....Its people like yourself that shout guilty at people before all the facts are out that really piss me off.

He was suspended pending the outcome of he's B sample. He's not banned, just suspended....

Lets wait to see where this goes with he's B sample before condemning him

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9285 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:43

13 Likes

therealsmallboy wrote:
It's the same old story. If he was seriously considering doing the unimaginable, he wouldn't have advertised it first. The classic 'cry for help'. Bravo, chapeau and well done to those who supported him and (possibly) brought him back from the edge, but I don't honestly think he would have actually gone through with it.

Let's not forget the bloke has cheated his opposition, fans, sponsors etc. He's throwing his teddies out of the cot because he's not the centre of attention anymore. For anyone to ever feel that killing themselves is the only answer is horrible, but he doesn't really deserve any sympathy for what he's done.

I'm torn with this one. I'd be utterly devastated if any of the pros felt that suicide was the only answer after being banned for doping, but he hasn't actually committed suicide. He hasn't even tried, he's just written a few attention-seeking words on twitter. I could do that right now.

yeah its possible, but if he has put out a genuine cry and people tell him to go and kill himself and he actually did. what would / should that person who sent the malicious response think?

fucking disgusting, dirty little trolls

None of you would know that I'm actually sitting here with a beer with a smile on my face!

Didn't Di Luca pull something like this?

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:44

13 Likes

my comment got lost in italics there

yeah its possible, but if he has put out a genuine cry and people tell him to go and kill himself and he actually did. what would / should that person who sent the malicious response think?

fucking disgusting, dirty little trolls

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:47

5 Likes

exactly!

some people huh?

Gkam84 wrote:
Do me a f**king favour therealsmallboy.....read the article

"official results of his B sample have not been revealed yet, but it is rumoured to be negative "

So if that's correct....he has done nothing wrong, cheated no-one....Its people like yourself that shout guilty at people before all the facts are out that really piss me off.

He was suspended pending the outcome of he's B sample. He's not banned, just suspended....

Lets wait to see where this goes with he's B sample before condemning him

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
12th October 2013 - 20:52

15 Likes

APOLOGIES!

Sorry guys, I didn't read it properly. I thought he'd failed a test.

My bad.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [110 posts]
12th October 2013 - 23:52

14 Likes

therealsmallboy wrote:
APOLOGIES!

Sorry guys, I didn't read it properly. I thought he'd failed a test.

My bad.

No worries. You did read some of it right, He did fail a test, but from my understanding it was a very minor trace of epo (ESA) but there can be various reasons for this, as epo is part of everyone's body. That's why I put (ESA), because that's what its classed as, when used for doping.

He's got his B test results coming, but as with everything, once it going public, there are various incantation's of the story and I think that's have an awful affect on his state of mind.

Imagine you KNOW you were clean, you won a stage, then a little while later, a test said you doped. That's going to hit you hard. Everything is torn from you, chucked by the team, can't race, most other riders, apart from those very close to you, aren't even going to want to train with you, for fear of association.

I don't know if he was clean or not, that's just an example.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9285 posts]
13th October 2013 - 2:00

12 Likes

In addition to just reading the road.cc article on Santambrogio and deciding on his guilt or innocence based on a two minute piece, maybe everybody in the thread should go and do a bit of background research on this rider, his results, comments made by other professionals, coverage by some of the major European press (pick a broad selection) and then come up with a (slightly) more rounded opinion of what he represents and whether he deserves our sympathy (if he really is near the edge, he does, regardless of his transgressions or non-transgressions). Personally, on a probability basis, I have made up my own mind, and all I will say is that I am 95% sure that he has no place in cycling.

theclaw's picture

posted by theclaw [75 posts]
13th October 2013 - 7:49

8 Likes

Really interesting case this. Especially if he was targeted for tests after his move to Vini, then the authorities thought they had pinged him.

Now the B-test could be clear.

Whatever the circumstances that will have messed with his mind and adds context to the whole doping debate.

Do I want cheats rooted out? 100%. But should they then be cast aside from the sport or worked with to ensure they are (a) ok and (b) don't feel the urge to transgress again. ?

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1341 posts]
13th October 2013 - 8:30

6 Likes