Ricco positive a blow for Italian cycling, says Zanatta
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Ricco positive a blow for Italian cycling, says Zanatta

by Agence France-Presse at 6:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
Liquigas manager Stefano Zanatta has admitted the latest doping scandal to hit the Tour de France is also a major blow to Italian cycling.

The race was rocked on Thursday by news of Riccardo Ricco's positive test for banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), the Italian becoming the third cyclist to leave the race after Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas of Spain.

Zanatta believes the fall from grace of one of Italy's top cycling stars will reflect badly on Italian cycling as a whole, but also on Ricco's past results, including this season's runner-up finish in the Giro d'Italia. "I believe things are changing for better in the sport, but there's always going to be someone who doesn't respect the rules," Zanatta told AFP prior to the race's 13th stage here Friday. "What has happened with Ricco, I hope, is an isolated case - but there's no doubt it looks bad. It looks bad on him, for his fans and on the sport of cycling in Italy." He added: "Ricco passed all the anti-doping controls at the Giro, but now some people are going to be looking at his results and wondering. It's inevitable."

Ricco, a brash 24-year-old climber regarded as aloof and arrogant by much of the peloton, came into the Tour declaring which stages he would like to win.

The Italian promptly won stage six at Super-Besse in the Massif Central, and the first stage in the Pyrenees at Bagneres-de-Bigorre, the next day watching teammate Leonardo Piepoli claim a prestigions win atop the Hautacam.

Ricco did not get as far as the 15th stage's summit finish at Prato Nevoso climb in Italy. He was still in police custody Friday morning following the news of his EPO positive from the fourth stage time trial.

Zanatta can fully empathise with Thursday's events. The full glare of the doping spotlight fell on Liquigas when Beltran, a former teammate of seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong, was revealed as a cheat.

And the imminent arrival to the team of Italian star Ivan Basso, who will soon return from a doping ban relating to the Operation Puerto affair, has shed some controversy on his team.

Zanatta confirmed that the 37-year-old Beltran, who is currently suspended, will be sacked if the analysis on a B sample - due out next week - confirms his first doping positive. "For us, it remains an isolated case," added Zanatta, although the Italian admitted his team had not yet established the kind of strict internal anti-doping programme currently being used by CSC, Columbia and Garmin. "We don't have that kind of system in place yet, but all our riders are regularly subject to random tests. I hope we can show that we've nothing to hide."

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