Riccardo Riccò has described the UCI-funded Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) as a joke after speaking to the doping investigators for seven hours but failing to get a reduction to his 12-year ban.
Riccò revealed that he spoke to the CIRC investigators during the presentation of the Italian version of his biography called Funerale in Giallo – Le Confessioni del Cobra (A Funeral in Yellow - the Confessions of the Cobra) in Milan on Tuesday afternoon.
He gave further details to Cyclingnews.
"I got in touch with the CIRC and went to Lausanne to speak to them early this year. I paid my own way to go there. I told them everything I knew; I gave them names of doctors, directeur sportif and riders who are still involved in the sport. I was led to believe I'd get a 50% cut in my ban because I want to make a comeback as a professional rider. But any reduction was stopped by the Italians. The whole thing was a joke. It seems the rules are applied and interpreted depending on who you are."
Cyclingnews understands that other Italians have recently secured reductions in their doping suspensions. Francesco Reda - formerly of Androni Giocattoli, was given a reduction in his ban after speaking to the CIRC, while Mauro Santambrogio - formely of Neri Sottoli, was given a reduced ban before speaking to CIRC after reaching a plea-bargaining agreement with the UCI and the Italian Anti-Doping Tribunal.
The UCI refused to comment on an individual case and the activities of the CIRC, reiterating that the CIRC has worked in total independence from the UCI. The Italian Olympic Committee press office did not reply to calls from Cyclingnews.
"I was the village cobbler compared to the big multi-national brands"
Riccò was banned for 12 years in 2012 by the Italian Anti-Doping Tribunal after apparently confessing to carrying out a botched blood transfusion at home that almost cost him his life. Riccò was banned a first time in 2008 after testing positive for CERA during the Tour de France. He was recently placed under investigation in the spring for attempting to buy stolen EPO with another former professional but told Cyclingnews he has not been charged.
The Italian climber has always been outspoken and divided opinion but insisted he does not feel a victim of the system.
"I'm not a victim of the system but I don't want to be a scapegoat either," Tuttobici reported him saying during his book presentation.
"I didn't steal anything, in doping terms I was the village cobbler compared to the big multi-nationals brands. I did what everyone else did and was perhaps in an artisan way. There were riders like Armstrong who had a staff of scientists, while people like me did what we could.
"Armstrong was a champion but he became what he became thanks to medicine. Everyone knew that. Jan Ullrich was a lot more talented than he was. If he'd lived like a rider should, history would have been different. The German was the really talented one, not the American."
Record attempts planned for 2015
Riccò revealed he considered committing suicide at one point but was saved by family and friends. He remains a tester for the Cipollini brand of bikes and intends to make a formal attempt at setting new records for several major climbs in France in 2015.
"We've got to plan things carefully. Some records were set in years where there lots of doubts. If I've got to go for a clean record, it's logical that I've got to do it where it's possible to do it," he was reported as saying.
"We've asked the French Federation to validate them. The bike will be approved and there will be anti-doping and Federation timers. They'll be official recognised records. So far I've only done some tests."
Riccò insists his doping problems have matured him but he is still critical of the world of professional cycling.
"I don't watch cycling much on television, it's pretty boring. Things are cleaner now but not totally clean. There's still total hypocrisy, some teams are still protected," Riccò said, refusing to offer any further details to Cyclingnews to back up his accusations.
"I think what's happened has made me grow up. When I raced I was at full bore and hated by the peloton because I was stronger than they were and I was a real idiot," he told Tuttobici.
"I wouldn't make the same mistakes that I made. I wouldn't dope, or I'd at least do it differently."