Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) has labelled Riccardo Riccò a “serial doper” and said that his team should never have signed the Italian. The Dutch squad parted company with Riccò last week amid allegations that his recent stint in hospital with a kidney ailment was caused by an autologous blood transfusion.
“At first, we didn’t know why [Riccò had been hospitalised] and we said: ‘That’s s*** for him,’” Feillu told France Soir. “Even if he wasn’t my best friend, you could only have pity for him.”
Once details from Modena began to take shape in the Italian press in the days after Riccò's initial illness, Feillu’s sympathy vanished rapidly.
“He’s a serial doper,” Feillu said. “He can’t conceive of life in any other way.”
Riccò tested positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France and returned from suspension in March of last year. After winning the Tour of Austria in the colours of Ceramica Flaminia, Riccò switched to Vacansoleil before the end of the season and Feillu is adamant that his team should never have moved for the troubled rider.
“If I had been manager of the team, I would never have signed a guy like that,” Feillu said.
As well as recruiting Riccò, Vacansoleil-DCM also signed Ezequiel Mosquera as it prepared to move into the World Tour ranks. The Spaniard returned a positive test for Hydroxyethyl starch at the Vuelta a España, and is currently sidelined by his new team while he awaits a verdict on his case.
However, Feillu is unconvinced by speculation that Vacansoleil-DCM could lose its ProTeam licence as a consequence of its questionable recruitment policy.
“There are lots of rumours but I’m not paying them any heed,” he said. “For me, it’s not possible. After all, it’s the UCI who authorised Riccardo Riccò to ride again. Nobody in the team helped him to dope. Vacansoleil recruited some riders who don’t have a good reputation and maybe they’ve been had.”
Feillu admitted that his team’s reputation has been damaged in the eyes of the public due to the controversy surrounding Riccò and Mosquera, but he was at pains to point out that he had no intention of leaving the squad.
“They’re lumping the other riders with Riccò, but that has more of an effect on the image we’re reflecting than on my own conscience,” Feillu said. “My teammates have a good mentality. Two riders aren’t going to make me leave the team.”