Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli have both been fired by Saunier Duval-Scott for "doping practices", the team announced Friday. Team spokesman David Garcia told Reuters: "[Team manager] Mauro Gianetti has lost faith in them and he decided to fire them from the team. They have been fired for doping practices."
The news follows Riccò's failed test for a third generation form of the blood boosting drug EPO and the team's subsequent departure from the Tour de France on Thursday morning. Riccò spent Thursday night behind bars at a police station in Mirepoix, while the Saunier Duval bus was stopped and searched around 17.30 local time as it made its way from the race.
Riccò appeared in court in Foix on Friday morning to face charges relating to his failed test. The possession and use of banned substances is illegal under French law.
Piepoli, the winner of stage 10 to Hautacam, is not reported to have failed a drugs test, but the team decided to fire him after conducting an internal investigation. "[Gianetti] did a personal investigation and consequently lost faith in Riccò but also in Piepoli because of a violation of the team's ethics code," read a team statement.
"All our riders gave us guarantees that they were clean," the statement added. "Riccò swore on his mother's head that he had never turned to illegal substances or means to improve his performance. Despite all the efforts made both internally and from outside the team we have failed to avoid this deplorable situation. We are the victims of the deceitful behaviour of those who put our sponsors' investments and the jobs of so many honest people at risk with the loathsome purpose of improving their cycling performance."
Thierry Leroy, a spokesman for title sponsor Saunier Duval, told French radio station RTL that the company would seriously consider its future investment in the cycling team. "It is highly probable that we will pull out of sponsoring cycling following this affair," said Leroy.
He added that Saunier Duval would be prepared to launch legal action against the team if proof was found of organised doping practices.