Italian cyclist Enrico Rossi, Riccardo Riccò’s brother-in-law, is held by police on charges of drug trafficking as part of the ‘Cobra-Red investigation. In raids across Italy yesterday, they removed EPO, steroids, masking agents and human growth hormones.
Rossi, 28 years old from Rimini, finished eighth last year behind winner Mark Cavendish at the Milan-San Remo one-day race.
His sister Vania Rossi, a former Italian cyclo-cross champion, tested positive for blood booster EPO-CERA in January but a back-up test cleared her. Vania Rossi’s husband, Riccardo Ricco, tested positive for the same substance at the 2008 Tour de France and served a subsequent 20-month ban.
Ricco races for Dutch team Vacansoleil, but began his return this year alongside Enrico Rossi at Italian team Ceramica Flaminia.
“I’ve read the news on the internet and we have suspended him immediately,” Team Manager Roberto Marrone told Cycling Weekly.
“I saw him last at the race on Sunday [in Prato], but as a manager I don’t have close relationships with all my riders. Unfortunately, I don’t have any idea what is going on in the investigation, clearly, it is all top secret.”
The investigation has resulted in five other arrests:
– Nicolas Sanchez Vanegas, former Colombian cyclist, called a journalist, but works in advertising
– Amateur cyclist Giorgio Galli
– Pharmacist Leonardo Scorpiniti
– Nurse Chiara Ferri
– Amateur cyclist Davide Paganuzzi
Police found the EPO and other drugs at Paganuzzi’s home. At Rossi’s home, they found a hyperbaric tent used to simulate training at altitude. Italian anti-doping rules prohibit the use of hyperbaric tents and, since 2003, consider the use of them doping. Rossi paid €3,000 to buy the tent used from another cyclist.
Besides the six arrested, Italy’s Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) questioned 35 people yesterday: 15 amateur cyclists and six – all connected to Rossi – are professional cyclists.
Ricco does not appear to be involved, though the investigation carries the “Cobra-Red” code name. “Il Cobra” is Ricco’s nickname and “Red” is the English translation for Rossi.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is expected to open its own investigation soon.