By Gregor Brown
Italian Riccardo Riccò faces a second doping investigation and the possibility of a lifetime ban depending on what police uncover in today's raids in Italy.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) carried out six arrests and 40 searches this morning in an investigation named "Cobra-Red" after Riccò and his brother-in-law, team Ceramica Flaminia cyclist Enrico Rossi. "Il Cobra" is Riccò's nickname and Red is the English translation for Rossi.
The NAS, acting on orders of prosecutor Sergio Sottani, arrested a professional cyclist, two amateurs, a sports journalist, a pharmacist and a nurse near the southern cities of Rome and Rimini.
There are 35 people involved, including six professionals, 15 amateur cyclists, sports doctors, trainers, pharmacists and gym members. The searches were carried out from the south to the north of Italy, in 12 different provinces: Rimini, Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Prato, Bergamo, Reggio Emilia, Milano, Pistoia, Parma, Latina, Perugia and Bari.
This year, Riccò returned from his suspension. He raced with team Ceramica Flaminia and won a stage at Settimana Lombarda, a stage at Giro del Trentino, and two stages and the overall Tour of Austria. He agreed to pay the team €75,000 to end his contract one year early and joined Dutch team Vacansoleil last month.
Riccò raced with team Saunier Duval from 2006 to 2008. He won three stages of the Giro d'Italia and in 2008, finished second behind Alberto Contador. At the Tour de France two months later, he tested positive for blood booster EPO-CERA.
The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) only announced the result on July 17, after he had won two stages (Super-Besse and Bagnères-de-Bigorre). He subsequently lost his stage wins and served a 20-month suspension.
Ricco leaves Flaminia, plans for Tour return in 2011
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