Riccardo Riccò has insisted during questioning by Italian Olympic Committee investigators that his life-threatening spell in hospital was not caused by an illegal blood transfusion.
Riccò was rushed to hospital on February 6 and doctors have allegedly told police that he admitted to undergoing a blood transfusion while being treated for acute kidney failure. The questioning lasted 90 minutes but Riccò stayed quiet afterwards, preferring to let his lawyer do the talking for once.
“Whatever Riccardo says is misconstrued by journalists,” Fiorenzo Alessi told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We’ve given our version and clarified some things, underlining and explaining everything with expert opinions: no autologous blood transfusion took place.”
Regarding reports that both the emergency doctor and nurse allegedly heard Riccò’s confession and that eight hospital staff confirmed that he was coherent when he was in hospital, Alessi said: “We’ll worry about that during the penal trial.”
That trial could take several years to reach a final verdict but Alessi knows a disciplinary hearing with the Italian Olympic committee would be much quicker and lead to a possible life-time ban for Riccò.
“It’s pretty clear Riccardo will face disciplinary action. So at this point we’ll defend ourselves in front of the Tribunale Nazionale Anti-Doping,” Alessi conceded.
He then criticised the police investigating the case, who recently confirmed they will request he goes on trial for doping. “We offered 11 dates for questioning and then they’ve said we avoided it,” Alessi said.
Riccò initially announced he would retire after leaving hospital but then attempted a comeback with the small Meridiana team in the summer. This was blocked by the Italian Cycling Federation and lead to his questioning in Rome. Riccò now seems determined to try and stay in cycling.
“He won’t make a comeback this year but he doesn’t feel he’s an ex-rider,” Alessi said, adding maliciously. “Considering who else is out there, why should he consider himself an ex-rider?”