Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco was given a 12-year doping ban by the National Anti-doping Tribunal on Thursday. The Tribunal accepted the Italian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping prosecutor’s request after Ricco was accused of giving himself a blood transfusion. Ricco maintains he is innocent and merely injected himself with an iron solution but a doctor who operated on him claimed Ricco had tried to give himself a blood transfusion.
In February last year Ricco ended up in hospital with kidney problems after the apparent transfusion attempt. Close to death, he allegedly told the doctor he had given himself a transfusion with blood kept in his fridge. Experts have dismissed his claims of injecting himself with an iron solution, saying it would not have produced the symptoms from which he was suffering. An investigation concluded in September revealed through bacteriological analysis of Ricco’s blood that his infection was caused by a failed blood transfusion.
Following the incident he was sacked by his Vacansoleil team. He then claimed he would quit cycling because it made him feel sick, however he later recanted and said he wanted to continue racing. Ricco had already served a two-year ban for doping during the 2008 Tour de France, during which he was found to have taken the banned blood-booster CERA.
That was the year ‘The Cobra’ came to prominence, winning two stages and finishing second overall at the Tour of Italy, although he courted controversy by proving to be an ungracious loser, claiming that he and not Alberto Contador had deserved to win due to his more attacking approach. He went on to win another pair of stages at the Tour de France but subsequently tested positive for doping and was thrown out of the race, as well as fired by his then Saunier Duval team.