Ricco admits blood transfusion caused hospitalisation

Riccardo Ricco

Italian cyclist Ricardo Ricco admitted today that a blood transfusion led to his hospitalisation. It counts for the second doping incident with the 2008 Tour de France and will likely lead to at least a five-year ban.

The 27-year-old told doctors; "I did an autologous blood transfusion." According to Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The public prosecutor of Modena, where Riccò has been hospitalised since Sunday, said that he will open an investigation.

It is the second doping investigation for Riccardo Riccò in three years. He tested positive for blood booster EPO-CERA at the Tour de France in 2008. The test results were revealed on July 17, after he had won two stages (Super-Besse and Bagnères-de-Bigorre).

Riccò served a 20-month suspension and lost his two stages wins as a result.

Last year, he returned with Italian second division team Ceramica Flaminia as if nothing ever happened, winning five stages in various races and the Tour of Austria overall classification.

He left Ceramica Flaminia at the end of the season when he annulled his contract for a fee of €75,000. He joined Vacansoleil in August and helped the team gain a first division, WorldTour licence with his UCI points.

He began his season a week ago at the GP Marseillaise one-day in France. He was due to start the Tour Méditerranéen stage race tomorrow.

Riccò now faces another Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and a possible five-year to lifetime ban. The Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) issued Italian cyclist Lorenzo Bernucci a five-year year ban yesterday on the recommendation of CONI. Bernucci was caught with drugs in his house, his second offence in three years.

"Riccò's condition, initially critical, is improving," read a medical bulletin last night. "The prognosis, being cautious, remains confidential."

He had felt ill on Saturday after training and told his dad Rubino Riccò that he had a fever of 38°C. It rose to 40°C overnight and was accompanied by abdominal pain. Rubino took his son to the local hospital in Pavullo Sunday morning. Doctors saw Riccò's condition was critical and transferred him to the hospital in Modena.

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Ricco remains hospitalised with likely kidney problems

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.