UCI says it’s monitoring Riccò situation, won't block return to racing
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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

UCI says it’s monitoring Riccò situation, won't block return to racing

by Shane Stokes at 2:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Investigation into rider stalls after death of medical expert

Riccardo RiccoWith controversial rider Riccardo Riccò looking set to return to competition next week, the UCI has said that it is monitoring the situation in relation to the enquiry into his case. It appears to rule out any intervention at this point in time.

“We know that this rider is implicated in an investigation on a national level but it is impossible at the current time to anticipate the outcome,” UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told VeloNation today. “The UCI will monitor the development of this situation in order to be ready to take all the relevant action, if necessary.”

Riccò has already served a lengthy suspension for doping during the 2008 Tour de France. In February it appeared that he was heading for a probable life ban from the sport when he was hospitalised in a very serious condition and reportedly told doctors that he had transfused blood.

According to Italian media, he disclosed that it had been stored in his refrigerator for 25 days, and that he had injected himself with it.

Italian prosecutors opened an investigation and his then-Vacansoleil team said that it was suspending him from racing. In mid-February, it sacked him on the grounds that he had violated the team’s regulations in relation to anti-doping.

“Riccò was fired on the spot today,” it said in a communiqé issued February 19th, one day after he was released from hospital. “The breach of internal rules and other indications justify this measure. Today Riccò was informed on the dismissal by a registered letter.”

Despite that plus the Italian investigation, he now appears set to return to international competition. The UCI confirmed to VeloNation that his registration with the Meridiana-Kamen team had been completed.

In the absence of any official decision on the case, it said that it was following existing rules.

“Ricco's new team is a Continental Team, so it is the National Federation (in this case the Croatian Federation) that is responsible for the entire registration procedure” said Carpani. “According to the rules, the UCI is only involved in the last administrative step of this procedure, which results in the publication of the updated team roster on the UCI website. As far as we are concerned, this has been carried out.”

At this point in time, it appears that there is no obstacle to him pinning on a number on Monday and competing once more. Despite everything which has happened, despite the investigation and the fact that he never challenged Vacansoleil’s dismissal of him, he claims that he is clean and that there are conspiracies against him.

Meanwhile the enquiry into his case has been delayed by an unexpected development. The CONI prosecutor is awaiting for a file from the prosecutor’s office in Modena, but this has been affected by the death of professor Giovanni Beduschi. He was in charge of the analysis of the case, but passed away last month at 61 years of age due to a heart attack.

Amore & Vita team not impressed:

Riccardo RiccoIn a lengthy interview published overnight on VeloNation, Italian Amore & Vita team owner Cristian Fanini appeared to feel that the team was deceived by Riccò. “He approached us with his personal masseur and press agent – who is also his friend – and he said to us that we were the only ones who could help him; [he said] the entire world thinks he is still a doper, but he was actually just the victim of a virus.

“He told us that he admitted nothing to the doctor about taking ‘bad blood’ and that the medico was just in search of publicity. He said he was clean and wanted to come back.”

Fanini explained that in the absence of a ruling from the investigators, the team would give him a second chance. However he said that the rider had to prove he was clean by fulfilling three specific steps. These were to end his association with his previous entourage, for him and his family to live – all expenses paid – at one of the team houses where they could be monitored, and for the rider to agree to speak to authorities about his doping history.

Things cooled rapidly after that. “That meeting was on the Friday and he was meant to see us again on the Monday to sign the contract – the bikes, clothing and a training camp in Sicily were all in place for him. And then he disappeared.

“We couldn’t get him or his agent on the phone; but eventually he called and said he needed a little more time. We decided to set a deadline of 48 hours for him to get back to us. He didn’t answer or calls or messages and when we heard that he had signed for the Croatian team, we felt a little cheated.”

Riccò’s now got a new jersey and will be back in action on Monday. His racing career will resume with a prologue in Ruma Vrdnik, but could well grind to a halt again if the Italian investigation progresses further.

At this point in time, though, a sense of limbo exists and his controversial career rumbles on. The sense of unease will be further exacerbated by a quote from David Millar’s new autobiography, which will be released on June 16th. According to viaemilianet.it, he refers to former Saunier Duval team-mate Riccò as “the most suspicious rider I’ve met.

“Despite being just 22 years old [then], he had a total familiarity with needles. Before the big races, he sat on the team bus and injected substances.”

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