from Cycling News
Taken into police custody
Italian rider Riccardo Riccò of Saunier Duval has tested positive for blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO), French sports daily L’Equipe reported on their website on Thursday. According to the paper’s Damien Ressiot, one of the climber’s urine samples collected by the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD showed traces of a third generation EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator).
Riccò, who won two stages in the Tour de France (the sixth and ninth), was ninth on general classification before the news broke on Thursday morning. The Italian’s impressive performances have in the past been explained by his naturally high hematocrit level.
The Italian from Spanish team Saunier Duval was part of a targeted group of riders. Since the start of the race in Brest, the AFLD performed numerous anti-doping tests on him, at least four according to L’Equipe.
Riccò will not continue the race. This morning at the start of stage 12 from Lavelanet to Narbonne, he was taken from his team bus into a team car, which drove away. Cyclingnews’ Gregor Brown confirmed that the Italian was taken into police custody for questioning.
Ricco has had to fend off suspicions. He says he has a naturally high hematocrit level, which measures the volume of red blood cells. High hematocrit levels can suggest use of the banned blood booster EPO but do not confirm it.
Ricco has had high hematocrit levels “ever since I was little,” adding “I hope soon that everybody will stop speaking about that
Ricco’s Saunier Duval team immediately announced their withdrawal from this year’s race and their riders, who had gathered at the stage 12 start line at Lavelanet, left the peloton in a surreal display.
“This is a decision of the team and is not dictated by (Tour organisers) ASO,” Saunier Duval sports director Matxin Fernandez said.
“We suspend the activities of the team until we understand what has happened,” Fernandez added.
Sounds to me it’s a case of getting the hell out of dodge before they end up with all their doped us asses in the slammer.