Italian Riccardo Riccò has said he wants to return to cycling, two months after being rushed to hospital supposedly following a botched blood transfusion.
Riccò is without a team and is under investigation for doping. "We fired him immediately," Vacansoleil team press officer, Frank Kwanten told Cycling Weekly. "He's off the list at the UCI, we sent a dismissal letter to him and the UCI.
"He's not apart of our team and he's aware why, because he violated some of the regulations," Kwanten. "We actually expected something [a defence] from his side, but I think he understands there's no way back."
Dutch ProTeam Vacansoleil fired Riccò on February 19, nearly two weeks after Riccò was hospitalised on February 6.
The team's doctor Daniel Demartaelaere visited the hospitals were Riccò was treated, in Italy. He says he spoke with a medic who confirmed that Riccò had suffered from a botched blood transfusion.
Before being transferred to the bigger hospital, a medic in Pavullo had claimed Riccò admitted the transfusion.
"On his own, he had done an auto-transfusion of blood that had been kept at in a refrigerator at home for 25 days," claimed the medic. He added that Riccò had been afraid that "he had stored the blood poorly."
Riccò told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport last month that he's fed up with cycling and wants to open a bar or coffee shop.
However, after meeting with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri, yesterday, he indicated a change of heart.
He now denies that he transfused his blood or admitted to doing so.
"I don't remember my recovery, I was more dead than alive," said Riccò. "They told me that I had a virus.
"I still feel like a cyclist and I want to return. I am looking for a team that will help me return. I think there are other cyclists in my position that are racing as normal. Contador? Yes, and also Italian cyclists."
But, despite his denials, Vacansoleil will not be reopening the door to the Italian.
"If he wants to race, then there needs to be a team to give him a chance," said Kwanten.
"What our doctor, Demartaelaere, found when he visited him twice in Italy, and looking at the conditions in his contract, we had enough reasons to fire him. We believe that, regardless of whether CONI find him guilty."
If found guilty, Riccò faces a possible five-year to life-time sporting ban because this would be his second offence. He tested positive for blood booster EPO-CERA in 2008 at the Tour de France. The test results were revealed after he had already won two stages.
He returned to race last year, first with Ceramica Flaminia and then with Vacansoleil.
Vacansoleil were promoted to the WorldTour this year and are due to race both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. Riccò trained over the winter and had already begun his season, racing the GP Marseillaise on January 30.
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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.
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