After the Twittersphere’s indignation should come the introspection. He’s a fool, a cheat and a liar, but Riccardo Ricco should not be scapegoated for the collective problem cycling must rally against.

Words by Andy McGrath

Newsflash: Riccardo Ricco is the anti-Christ. Or so you’d have thought from a brief perusing of the worldwide web yesterday.

Even for the man cycling has loved to hate in recent years, his latest crime engendered a new kind of loathing. For hours, professionals cyclists, media and fans were united in scathing criticism of the Italian.

The reason? Reports suggest that Ricco was rushed to hospital on Sunday in a critical condition with reported kidney failure after attempting to transfuse a bag of blood that had been in his fridge for 25 days.

He nearly killed himself, the stupid fool. The Twittersphere was ablaze with shock, anger, suggestions of karmic retribution, crowing; one fellow professional even typed ‘I hope he doesn’t wake up’, later deleting his post.

So what has Ricco done differently? Lied repeatedly? Tom Boonen told porkies about cocaine use. Said he was a changed man? Hamilton tested positive twice. So did Aitor Gonzalez. Niklas Axelsson as well. Returned to cycling showing no public remorse? That’s a nasty personality defect that endeared him to even fewer.

It’s the currentness and grimness of his reputed transgression that makes this different to other cases.

Blood transfusion is the same crime as several past positive-testing peers. The only thing is, they’ve been caught and condemned later down the line, not in the glaring here and now.

Almost killing himself by transfusing bad blood is akin to Ricco catching his hand in a bear-trap-like cookie jar which almost dashed an artery.

Ricco’s sorry example is an advertisement for a lifetime ban; hopefully that will be his comeuppance. Jail may even beckon for him. Judging from the reaction, he can’t come back to cycling: if doping doesn’t tear him apart, his fellow riders will.

Professional cyclists speaking out against cheats is right. But it has been directed wrongly: doing it against Ricco, and on beautifully-faceless Twitter, has no lasting impact.

If only the peloton was as vociferous and unified in its anti-doping protests as they have been about Ricco (and race radios) on Twitter recently. But in person, it is much easier and safer to gather under a quiet unity and do nothing about the cheats.

That must change. The sport is currently in no lustrous state where fellow riders can be so self-righteous about Ricco. As if we need a reminder, the seven-time Tour de France champion is under federal investigation and the most recent champion Alberto Contador is appealing a one-year ban.

Is it okay for riders to keep schtum about the likes of Contador, Valverde, Di Luca and Rasmussen (the list goes on) because they were only banned once? Because they didn’t appear to have odious personalities and clung to implausible defences? A cheat is a cheat, whether he has big, brown doe-eyes or conducts himself with shameless arrogance.

Ricco belongs to that latter category. He might be a fool, a liar and a cheat too. Hell, he comes off as a nasty piece of work personality-wise as well.

However, he should not be the scapegoat for cycling’s collective woes or a target for mass hysteria, especially while facts are hazy and he recovers from liver failure in an Italian hospital.

Twitter, and internet comment in general, is geared towards knee-jerk reaction. But I hope that, as the flames flicker out twenty-four hours after the initial inferno, more people will stop, think and realise that Ricco is not the enemy.

Cheats as a whole are, and the riders needs to rally as a whole against them – in person.

Follow us on Twitter:

  • Geoff Myers

    Ricco broke the 11th Commandment “Thou shalt not get found out”

    And in the current world order of pro cycling THAT is the biggest sin you can commit.

    IF the UCI was genuinely keen to stamp out drugs it would take real steps to do so.

    Starting with:
    An improved consistent testing policy that is legally enforceable in all nations, so where ever you are, when ever you go for your regular test no excuses.

    A global publicly accessible database of all products listed as banned if it does not already exist

    Removal of team points from those teams who are found to have a cheat.

    Life time bans for any rider found cheating.

    That would have a huge impact overnight but I fear due to lack of will it will NEVER happen.

  • Richard Evans

    Since my last post Contador is let of for being ‘a liitle bit guilty’ it’s like being a little bit pregnant. Small wonder teams have HQ’s in Spain, great weather and no interuptions. Cycling will soon if not now, have the same sporting credibility as American Wrestling

  • jacko

    it does,nt matter who it is or what they have taken, ban them all for life, then they might think why??? did i do it. when they have to work for a living, and not be pampered

  • Rob

    I don’t think you can equate Contador and Ricco. Contador, as far as can be proved, tested positive for a minute amount of a banned substance that could have had no significant performance benefit and could very possibly have been contained in a normal foodstuff without his knowledge. Ricco tested positive for EPO-CERA, and now, after returning from his ban, has almost died after administering himself a blood transfusion. It goes without saying that both are very deliberate acts of cheating.

    So I think I will rail against Ricco, thank you very much.

  • Richard Evans

    His fellows pro’s hate him for getting caught, not for cheating. The man probably rightly thinks or knows they are all doing it, so in his eyes it’s not cheating.
    I am so sick of the lot of them my last two issues of Cycle Sport reamin unopened as I cannot bring myself to read about them.
    It is a sport run by and for drug takers, and much as I love it, It sickens me.

  • Trevor

    Why anybody every wanted to give Ricco a second chance in the first place is beyond me. I know it’s easy to say with hindsight, but Ricco has been linked to past investigations and even obtained ‘haematocrit exemption’ due to ‘naturally high levels’. Here’s somebody who has probably worked the system all his career, including recently signing with a reputed coach to enhance his image. He ‘only’ got caught once. If he does not get a life ban, no team should want him anyway: his image is too harmful for the good of cycling. I’m sure the Vacansoleil riders are pretty worried about what their sponsor might think.

  • adam

    Sorry – but whilst Ricco is clearly not alone I’ll feel fine to damn him all I want. As i would every other cheat… And it’s not making a mistake and having to live with it. But repeatedly making a mistake and being an arrogant prick about it too.
    Happily add Landis, Valverde, Di Luca, Contador…. take your pick. They’re all entitled to my displeasure. As I said on cyclingweekly PLEASE do not do an interview with him. I DO NOT care about how sorry he is or how we can learn from his mistakes… Let him (and the rest of them) disappear.

  • Hadyn Bosher

    In his time Pantani was made the scapegoat,and look what happened to him!!This time it wiil be Ricco,but in most cases of the riders in what they say is the kettle calling the fire black! As for the U.C.I? just for them to say there is no currupion,tells me there must be,there would be no need to try and defend themselves,if their concience was clear,as mostly happens in law!!I’ve been an ardent bikie for 70 of my 78 years and i’ve seen it go down and down,very very sad as it has meant a lot to me,and kept me fit, i think !!??

  • BRP

    He’s already paying for it worse than most. One can only hope he’ll make others think twice about doing the same. You know what they say: “Live and learn or (almost) die and teach by example.”

  • Kimber Breton

    The nameless, faceless cycling “fans” are also contributing to this scapegoating and mass hysteria via social networking sites. Why shouldn’t the riders be entitled to have their say as well?

    …and Jim, 39 yr old Mr. Simeoni recently retired from his “pro” career.

  • Bfg

    Shouldn’t it be Rallying against Ricco and not Railing against Ricco?

  • bryan clarke

    There are riders and DSs who are still involved or complicit in these activities. The views given by these people concerning Contador tell us all we need to know about the current situation. Listen to the crap Martineli and Scheck, to quote just two recent examples, have given in recent weeks on the Contodor case. The UCI needs to rid the sport of those who choose corruption and greed and give some support to clean, honest riders. The Question is will they ! History, unfortunately gives us the clear answer

  • Brian

    Well said Andy McGrath. Unfortunaly the world of Cycling (gouverning bodies, team management, bike manufacturers, race organisers, riders) is so corrupted I can’t see how the sport could escape its ‘dirty’ culture. I do not believe the peloton is cleaner nowadays than it was 10 years ago. Therefore how could the few riders who race clean rally in person against the riders who dope, the team managers & DS (they all doped as riders), the UCI…

  • Jim Watson

    Couldn’t agree more. There must be riders who know their fellow riders are not clean. The only ones who speak out get attacked. Who was the young Italian that Lance chased down a few years back? Has he still got a pro contract?