- Article published:
- July 17, 2008, 0:00 BST
- Cycling News
Italian rider Riccardo Riccò of Saunier Duval has tested positive for blood booster Erythropoietin...
Taken into police custody
Italian rider Riccardo Riccò of Saunier Duval has tested positive for blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO), French sports daily L'Equipe reported on its website on Thursday. According to the paper's Damien Ressiot, one of the climber's urine samples collected by the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD showed traces of a third generation EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator).
The team has pulled out of the Tour. Saunier Duval's directeur sportif, Joxean Fernandez Matxin, was surprised as anybody. "We only found out ten minutes ago. The entire team is ceasing its operation, not only in the Tour de France."
Riccò, who won two stages in the Tour de France (the sixth and ninth), was ninth on general classification before the news broke on Thursday morning. The Italian's impressive performances have in the past been explained by his naturally high hematocrit level.
The Italian from Spanish team Saunier Duval was part of a targeted group of riders. Since the start of the race in Brest, the AFLD performed numerous anti-doping tests on him, at least four according to L'Equipe.
Riccò will not continue the race. This morning at the start of stage 12 from Lavelanet to Narbonne, he was taken from his team bus into a team car, which took him to the police station. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown confirmed that the Italian was taken into police custody for questioning.
Fernandez described the final moments before Riccò was driven off. "He sat in the team bus and was not able to say anything. We didn't want to make a scene with the police. They let us drive him away in the team car. A police officer accompanied him in the car."
In initial reactions riders and directeurs sportifs weighed in. George Hincapie of Team Columbia said, "We can look at the positive side and that we're catching riders that cheat. The...