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Journalists' reactions: Riccò case is a catastrophe, but not a surprise

With Thursday's headlines dominated by the news of Riccardo Riccò's failed test for EPO, Cyclingnews Gregor Brown went in search of some reactions from inside the Tour de France press room. While many of the sport's closest followers agreed it was no surprise, the sight of Riccò being escorted from the Tour by French police left several journalists wondering just how low the day ranked among previous dark days at the Tour.

"It is a catastrophe," said Marco Pastonesi of La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Riccò re-ignited the enthusiasm of the Italian fans, and so the news of his doping signifies that maybe the enthusiasm was there prematurely and it could possibly put an end to this sport.

"Until there is a positive test, I want to give credit to any cyclist who merits it - and Riccò was one of those cyclists. However, every time there is a glorious exploit performed in an illegal way, I find it harder to believe. Still, until there is proof [of doping] we must not jump to conclusions."

Pastonesi said that Thursday's events may have even eclipsed Marco Pantani's ejection from the 1999 Giro d'Italia and Ivan Basso's admitted involvement in the Operacion Puerto case. "Nine years after Pantani - yes. Maybe worse than Ivan Basso, because he was calculating while Riccò was a hero."

For L'Equipe's Philippe Brunel, Riccò's departure was further damage to the Tour's already struggling credibility. "It is a scandal, like we have seen over and over for the last 50 years - the death of Tom Simpson, Michel Pollentier, the Festina Affair, Floyd Landis - it is another dark moment, and it has to be decided if it is just another one, or one too many. Because at a certain moment fans no longer have trust.

"It was not a surprise for me. Journalists do their work, but when you don't have proof you are not able to do anything. If you write in a subjective manner, then you too become a judge or a policeman, so you have to watch everything and when the proof arrives, then you write."

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