- Article published:
- July 17, 2008, 0:00 BST
- Hedwig Kröner
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's buses and cars were reportedly stopped by gendarmes and searched, and the police were seen taking bags of items away.
The Saunier Duval team has voluntarily withdrawn itself from the Tour de France, and said it would not compete in any races until further notice. Directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin said he was as surprised as anybody. "We only found out ten minutes ago. The entire team will stop racing, not only in the Tour de France. We suspend the activities of the team until we understand what has happened."
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.
At the start of stage 12 from Lavelanet to Narbonne, Riccò 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...