Ricco fails drugs test on Tour de France
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ricco fails drugs test on Tour de France

by Agence France-Presse at 7:06 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
Italian rider Ricardo Ricco of Saunier Duval has tested positive for blood booster erythropoietin (EPO), the French national anti-doping agency (AFLD) confirmed on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Ricco, winner of two mountain stages, provided a urine sample which contained the banned subtance CERA (Continuous Erythropietin Receptor Activator) after the fourth stage, a 29.5 km time-trial at Cholet.

His Saunier-Duval team later confirmed they were withdrawing from the race. "We've decided to suspend all cycling activities until we find out what has happened," team spokesman Matxin Fernandez said. "Ricco is not just any rider, he's a top rider. So for the sake of our team and the Tour de France we have made this decision. We can't act as though nothing has happened, we have to accept the reality."

The Italian won stages six and nine and was in ninth position overall 2min 29sec behind Australian race leader Cadel Evans. His Spanish teammate Juan Jose Cobo was in eighth position.

Veteran team member Leonardo Piepoli won Monday's tenth stage.

Ricco was questioned by gendarmes before the start of Thursday's 12th stage between Lavelanet and Narbonne. He was then driven away by them in a Saunier Duval team car.

Ricco was one of the riders particularly targeted by the AFLD during the race and had been tested at least four times, French sports daily L'Equipe reported earlier on their website.

All tests on the Tour are being carried out by AFLD because the race is being held under the auspices of the French federation.

That decision came in the wake of an ongoing feud between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the company which runs the Tour, ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation). He becomes the third rider to fail a drugs test in this year's race after Spanish riders Moises Duenas of Barloworld and Manuel Beltran of Liquigas also tested positive for EPO.

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