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Thumbs up for Riccardo Riccò (Vacansoleil)
Disgraced Italian appealing CONI ruling
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hear Riccardo Riccò's appeal next month after he was handed a 12-year suspension in April this year.
Riccò was issued the ban on April 19 by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping tribunal following a year of investigation into a 2011 incident which landed the Italian in the intensive care unit of a hospital with kidney failure, where he reportedly admitted to self-administering a blood transfusion.
Because Riccò tested positive for EPO during the 2008 Tour de France and was later banned for 20 months, the CONI's decision that his 2011 offense was an anti-doping violation equated to a second offense, and the CONI issued the 12-year ban, effectively ending the 29-year-old's career.
On December 11, Riccò will challenge the CONI ruling.
Should he be unsuccessful, the Italian would not be returning until close to his 40th birthday. Compatriot Mario Cipollini told Riccò earlier this year he should move on with his life.
"I said: 'Riccardo, first of all think about your son'," Cipollini later told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "'Forget competitive cycling, the team and the desire to race again. To prove what? For a sense of revenge against everyone? Sit down to look for a job for the future of your child. You're still young, you cannot spend your whole life chasing a ghost or whatever it was. Take my bike, yes, but not to train or to think of racing.
"'You have to do one thing: totally forget all about your career as a cyclist. You have to remove this burden and clean up your image. To talk about yourself and find out why you ended up in this situation. You cannot keep torturing yourself. Take these words as if they came from an older brother.'"
Riccò 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.
Riccò 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. The Dutch team dismissed him shortly after he was discharged from hospital after his incident in February 2011. Several months later he signed for Croatian Continental-ranked team Meridiana Kamen. He never rode for them, however, as first the Italian Cycling Federation suspended him shortly after the signing was announced, citing health concerns, and then the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) followed suit extending the ban worldwide.