Doping: Riccardo Riccò risks lifetime ban after apparent blood transfusion confession
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Doping: Riccardo Riccò risks lifetime ban after apparent blood transfusion confession

by Shane Stokes at 9:04 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
About-turn reported in relation to previous denials

Riccardo RiccoControversial Italian rider Riccardo Riccò looks set for a potential lifetime ban from cycling after apparently reversing his claims of innocence in relation to the injection of stored blood.

According to the Italian ANSA agency, the 28 year old admitted doping in recent days to the CONI [Italian Olympic Committee] prosecutor investigating his case. It states that he accepted that he performed an autotransfusion, injecting a stored quantity of his own blood in order to experience a performance boost.

The admission is a complete about-turn on his previous stance, when he stated that medical staff in the hospital which treated him when he was admitted in serious condition lied when they said he had admitted a transfusion.

(Editors note: ANSA has since retracted its claims of a confession: read more about that here)

The rider’s statement has been sent to the prosecutor of Modena, who is looking into the case.

Riccò previously received a lengthy ban after he tested positive for CERA during the 2008 Tour de France. He was stripped of his two stage wins there, but served 20 rather than 24 months due to cooperating with investigators.

Upon his return he pledged he would race clean and said that he believed he could win the Giro d’Italia without doping. Riccò was racing with the Vacansoleil team this year but was fired soon after his treatment in hospital. At the time of his admission, it was reported that he had admitted to medical staff that he had reinjected blood which had been stored for 25 days in a refrigerator.

An investigation was launched, and he said that he was walking away from the sport to become a bartender. However he soon changed his mind and started training once again, planning a return. Meantime the inquiry stalled in May when medical expert professor Giovanni Beduschi died suddenly due to a heart attack; it got moving again in June when the prosecutor of Mondena sent the dossier to the anti-doping prosecutor with CONI.

At the same time, Riccò inked a deal with the small Meridiana-Kamen team. He was planning on riding the Tour of Serbia, but this became impossible when on June 8th, the Commission for Health Protection of the Italian cycling federation decided to suspend his licence.

It said it was doing so in order to safeguard his health. When that initial 60 day ban expired, Dr Francis Plotinus, the president of the National Anti-Doping Tribunal, ordered the suspension to be extended by another 30 days.

That ran out in early September, and on the 14th on that month he appeared before CONI. Riccò denied any doping at the hearing, saying that the medical staff had lied. “We set out our alternative version,” said his lawyer Fiorenzo Alessi, according to Tuttobiciweb. “We think we can say there was no autotransfusion.”

Alessi said that the rider was “tired of always being misunderstood,” and Riccò consequently refused to speak to the press outside the CONI offices.

The lawyer added that he would remain part of the peloton in future. “He does not consider himself a rider [this year], said Alessi. “He will not race anymore this season, but he has no plans of stopping.”

Now with the news of the confession, that decision may have been made for him.


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