Doping suspect Ricco suspended by team

Vacansoleil finds 'sufficient reason' to do so after internal investigation

Disgraced Italian cyclist Riccardo Riccò has been suspended from competition by his Vacansoleil team amid doping suspicions, the Dutch outfit announced Friday.

Riccò returned from a doping ban early last year however the Italian climbing specialist aroused suspicion when he was admitted to hospital last week suffering from a suspected blood infection.

Reports claimed Riccò made himself ill by injecting blood which had not been stored properly. Blood transfusions are a well-known method of enhancing performance, especially among endurance athletes.

A Vacansoleil statement issued Friday meanwhile suggested they had found enough proof of a doping infraction to suspend the Italian, and were taking legal advice about ending his contract.

"Internal research results following the illness and rumours regarding Riccò have given the team sufficient reason to suspend the Italian with immediate effect," the statement said.

"Last Tuesday, the team started an urgent investigation following the hospitalisation of Riccardo Riccò. Three days later the results of this study brought the team to the conclusion that an immediate suspension of Riccò was required.

"The violation of internal regulations of the team and other indications justify this measure. Today Riccò received a registered letter on this matter.

"The team cannot prejudge but emphasises that a zero-tolerance policy towards doping is practised."

Last week the Gazzetta dello sport newspaper cited an unnamed doctor at Pavullo hospital - whose emergency admissions service Riccò had gone to Sunday - as saying that the racer had indicated he had effected a self-administered transfusion from a three-week-old sample at his home which he feared had gone off.

The Modena prosecutor has since opened an investigation and is now awaiting the results of tests at the hospital.

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) said it had also opened an investigation "on the basis of information which has appeared in the press."

Riccò, 27, returned from a 20-month suspension in March after he was found to have taken EPO substance CERA during the 2008 Tour de France.

© AFP 2011

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