The Italian National Anti-Doping Tribunal has today issued its verdict in the Riccardo Ricco doping case, banning the 28-year-old for 12 years after he admitted to self-administering a blood transfusion in February 2011.
Ricco had previously served a two-year ban for EPO use and the verdict from the Italian authority, which finds in favour of the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) recommendation, will effectively end his career in professional cycling.
Ricco ended up in hospital in February 2011 due to kidney problems, and eventually admitted several months later that they may have come about from a self-administered transfusion. CONI subsequently announced, in October 2011, that it was requesting a 12-year ban for Ricco - a request that was upheld today.
Ricco enjoyed a highly promising start to his career with Saunier Duval-Prodir, winning two stages at the Giro d'Italia and finishing second overall in 2008 as a 24-year-old. However, just weeks later he tested positive for CERA, a variant of EPO, at the Tour de France, and received a two-year ban, which was reduced to 20 months after he co-operated with the investigation.
Ricco returned to racing, and to form, in 2010, winning the Tour of Austria and finishing second at the Giro del Trentino in the colours of Vacansoleil-DCM. But temptation was never far away from the Italian and his life and his career unravelled again the following year. Ricco will be approaching his 40th birthday when his ban runs out, meaning that he will have to forge a new life away from cycling - something his countryman Mario Cipolloni advised him to do late last year.