Riccardo Ricco has left France and is heading back to Italy after formally being placed under investigation for “using illegal substances? but has promised he will clear his name and make a come back.

Ricco left Foix, near the Pyrenees, with his girlfriend Vania and her mother in his white Porsche Cayenne after being questioned by a judge for 90 minutes.

He was protected by dozens of police officers as he entered and left the court and was not allowed to talk to the press. When he first arrived at the courtroom he pulled up his hood, looking like any other suspected criminal but then walked head high into the court room.

Still defiant despite spending a night in police custody, Ricco denied taking EPO to the French judge but was a little more hesitant when he spoke to Alessandra di Stefano of Italian RAI television after stopping on the autoroute.

?I?m very bitter. I spent a night in the police station and it was like being in prison,? Ricco said.

?The magistrate listened to what I had to say. They searched my bags but only found some vitamins that we all use and so they decided to let me go home.?

Asked if he had ever used EPO, Ricco said: ?You?ll find out in the next few days. I?m going to see my lawyer tomorrow and we?ll start my defence.

Ricco was not surprised to hear that he had been sacked by Saunier Duval team manager Mauro Gianetti.

?It?s normal, it?s the standard routine of the teams, that?s what they have to do. I?m going to ask for the counter-analysis and then we?ll see.?

Asked to give a message to all the people who had admired him on television when he won stages in the Tour de France, Ricco was defiant to the end.

?I?ll be back and be stronger than ever,? he said.



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 13: Cavendish takes fourth win

Stage 12: Cavendish makes it three

Stage 11: Arvesen wins

Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Ricco speaks on Italian television

Cavendish joins the all-time greats

Saunier Duval sack Ricco and Piepoli

Tour bosses say fight against doping continues

Ricco denies doping at the Tour

Saunier Duval pull out of Tour

Tour’s top ten changes

Ricco positive for EPO at Tour

Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary

Cavendish battles through Pyrenees

Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]

Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour

Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 12

Stage 11

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage nine

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

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