Riccardo Riccò has denied that the doping products seized by police in a car park in Livorno on Tuesday were destined for him and claimed that he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
A team from NAS, the branch of Italian police specialising in drugs and health and safety, apprehended Riccò and his fellow former professional Matteo Cappè while they were reportedly in the process of purchasing EPO and testosterone in the car park of a McDonald’s outside Livorno on Tuesday afternoon.
Thirty doses of EPO and artificial testosterone were seized from the two dealers – named by Gazzetta dello Sport as Antonio Catarsi and hospital employee Fabrizio Boccolini – in the car park, while a search of their homes unearthed 100 more doses at a reported value of €15,000.
Police from NAS also found €1,170 in cash in Riccò’s jacket when they searched the car in which he and Cappè had arrived.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the matter has nothing to do with me,” Riccò said according to ANSA.
Riccò’s lawyer Fiorenzo Alessi claimed that his client was not in Livorno to purchase EPO. “No doping product was seized from Riccardo. He’s making a statement in order to clear up the matter with magistrates,” Alessi told ANSA, adding that the money found in the car did not belong to Riccò: “It wasn’t his, it was his friend’s.”
Riccò has not raced as a professional since 2011, when he was rushed to hospital after an apparently botched blood transfusion. He had already served a suspension after testing positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France, and the Italian Olympic Committee opted to hand him a twelve-year ban for his second offence.
Riccò has continued to train in the past three years, however, and recently announced that he was planning to attack the record times on a number of climbs this summer, including Mont Ventoux. “There’s no link between the charges against him and the sporting attempt that Riccò himself spoke about last year,” Alessi said.
The NAS raid in Livorno is apparently to be linked to an inquiry that began in Pistoia and focused on the theft of EPO from the San Jacopo hospital between January 2011 and July 2013. 22 people were charged in relation to that inquiry in February of this year.
Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the medicaments seized by police on Tuesday were marked as “for hospital use only.” Boccolini and Catarsi have already been charged with the handling of stolen goods and the sale of doping products, and face prison sentences of two to eight years if found guilty, while Riccò and Cappè could face similar charges.
37-year-old Matteo Cappè was a professional in 2003 and 2004 with the Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave outfit and is currently a rider on Italy’s competitive Gran Fondo circuit.