Riccardo Riccò is unable to race the Tour of Serbia starting on Monday with his new Meridiana team due to a suspension. The Italian cycling federation (FCI) announced on Wednesday morning that it is stopping him for health reasons.

The Italian cyclist, 27, tested positive for EPO-CERA at the 2008 Tour de France. In February, after returning to race with team Vacansoleil, he nearly died reportedly due to a botched blood transfusion. If true, it would be Riccò’s second offense and could bring a lifetime ban as blood transfusions are banned under the WADA code.

“It’s right that they [the FCI and Italian Olympic Committee (CONI)] do their job, but you should look at the others, like [Alberto] Contador for an example,” Meridiana team manager, Antonio Giallorenzo told Cycling Weekly.

Meridiana-Kamen is third division team in its third year. It’s based in Italy southern Campania region, but registered with the Union Cycliste International (UCI) in Croatia.

Riccò signed with Meridiana earlier this month, which the UCI confirmed on June 6. He was to race the Tour of Serbia stage race starting on Monday and ending June 19.

Giallorenzo was prepared to take a risk with Riccò despite earning a bad impression for his team.

“If that’s the case, then Liquigas, Androni and all the others are making a bad impression. Lampre has riders in its team who’ve been stopped, I don’t have to name their names,” Giallorenzo continued.

He referred to Italians Alessandro Petacchi and Michele Scarponi. In the last year, both have been involved in separate investigations. Scarponi had his belongings searched prior to racing the Giro d’Italia as part of an investigation of banned trainer, Michele Ferrari.

“Riccardo Riccò could race, there was no rule against that,” continued Giallorenzo. “Besides, who hasn’t made a mistake in his life? He made a mistake the first time [in 2008], the second time is in doubt, but it’s not up to me to decide.”

The CONI decided to take action before Riccò returned to race. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport today, CONI’s head prosecutor Ettore examined Riccò’s medical files yesterday and asked an internal doctor to look for evidence of a blood transfusion.

Team Vacansoleil fired Riccò on February 19, nearly two weeks after Riccò was hospitalised on February 6. Before being transferred to the bigger hospital, a hospital medic in Pavullo said Riccò admitted a blood transfusion.

“On his own,” explained the medic of Riccò’s admission, “he had done an auto-transfusion of blood that had been kept at in a refrigerator at home for 25 days.” He added that Riccò was afraid that “he had stored the blood poorly.”

Riccò, however, changed his story after meeting with Torri on April 13. He denies that he transfused his blood and that he made any admission to the medic.

The CONI may open a doping case against Riccò after its doctor examines the files. If so, it’s likely to stop Riccò from racing again by asking for a five-year to lifetime suspension.

Related links
Ricco on defence in face of another doping ban
Ricco suspended by Vacansoleil team
Ricco investigation official, transferred to cardiology
Ricco admits blood transfusion caused hospitalisation
July 2008: Ricco positive for EPO at Tour de France

  • Luigi

    Greta guya. Belissimo! MWAH! BRAVO! MWAH! Hea my hero.

  • Ken Evans

    “Meridiana-Kamen is third division team in its third year.
    It’s based in Italy southern Campania region,
    but registered with the Union Cycliste International (UCI) in Croatia.”

    Wouldn’t the Croatian cycling federation have a say in this matter ?
    Or is it because he is an Italian, with an Italian pro licence ?

  • Mark

    I am absolutely flabbergasted that Ricco has been signed again by any kind of team – for the good of cycling, and for his health, he needs to be banned for life NOW.

  • adam

    Sorry to say, but the further Ricardo gets pushed away from cycling, the happier I am. Pompous little cheat who deserves to be side lined for good…

  • Mike

    So poor Ricardo “made a mistake taking EPO”. I’m sorry, loosing your keys or forgeting to buy milk is a mistake. Administering EPO is not a mistake, Its a pre planned, well thought out strategey to cheat.
    And refusing to believe that, by his own admission, he gave himself a blood transfusion, and signing him to your team roster beggars belief.
    It just shows that team managers have no morals or scruples when it comes to signing a rider they think may boost the teams profile.
    Shame on Giallorenzo, I hope he and his like soon get pushed out of pro cycling for good.