Ricco denies doping and says he wants to return
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ricco denies doping and says he wants to return

by Shane Stokes at 9:50 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Italian has hearing in front of CONI

Riccardo RiccoControversial Italian rider Riccardo Ricco was today interviewed by the anti-doping prosecutor of CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee. The former Vacansoleil pro reversed his earlier decision to retire, saying that he wanted to come back. “I still feel like a cyclist and want to go racing,” he said, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I have nothing to hide. I am looking for a team that allows me to return to my profession as soon as possible.”

The Italian rider was rushed to hospital on February sixth, being admitted with suspected kidney failure. His condition then worsened and he was transferred to S. Agostino-Este. The hospital later released a statement to say that his condition had been critical but was improving.

According to reports in various Italian media, the rider admitted to medical staff that he had given himself a transfusion using blood which had been stored in a refrigerator for 25 days.

After leaving hospital, he backtracked and criticised the hospital; it released a statement saying that its staff are fully professional, implying that whatever was reported was true.

"I do not remember anything of my hospital,” he now says, “I was more dead than alive. I have only said that it was a virus, the doctor will respond to what he said.”

Following his admission to hospital, the prosecutor of Modena opened a file for suspected violation of the anti-doping law 376/2000. CONI is now studying the matter, and today’s hearing was part of that investigation. De Telegraaf previously reported that medical tests carried out by the hospital indicated that a transfusion had been performed.

Ricco may want to return but, if convicted, he is facing a lifetime ban from the sport. He was previously suspended after testing positive for CERA in the 2008 Tour de France, where he took two stages. He received a shortened ban as he gave information to anti-doping investigators, and returned to racing last season.

He swore then that he would compete clean, and began working with Mapei Centre chief physiologist Aldo Sassi, who had a reputation as being strongly anti-doping.

The latter was dying from brain cancer but said that he would put his trust in Ricco to do things right. “I have a life expectancy that goes as far as July: you’re my last gamble,” he stated. Sadly he passed away in December.

Ricco said that he would continue to work in the right way, and that he would win the Giro clean.

His lawyer Alessi Fiorenzo has said that for now, he believes the rider won’t be suspected. “At present there is no reason to expect a request for disqualification for Ricco from the anti-doping prosecutor. I don’t see it in the short term,” he stated. CONI may well see things differently.

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