Riccardo Riccò admits using EPO

Italian cyclist confesses to Olympic Committee

Italian cyclist Riccardo Riccò admitted to using banned blood booster EPO when interviewed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on Wednesday about his positive dope test on the Tour de France.

Riccò, who had won two stages, was kicked off the Tour after testing positive for EPO (erythropoietin) following the fourth stage time-trial on July 8.

He initially denied having doped following his positive test and arrest by French police, but now he has come clean.

"In front of the anti-doping prosecutor I took responsibility for my actions," said the Tour of Italy runner-up. "Before the tour I made a mistake, I took the substance that you all know about (EPO)."

Riccò was duly fired by his Saunier-Duval team along with team-mate Leonardo Piepoli, who had not tested positive but in whom his team lost faith.

Due to the doping scandal the team, which had by then pulled out of the Tour de France, also lost its sponsor, leaving its riders in limbo.

"It was my error alone and because of this I refused the option to have my B sample tested," he added. "My thoughts are with my team, because of me some could have lost their jobs. I'm thinking also of my team-mates who, because of me, could not continue their adventure in the Tour de France."

Riccò did at least show remorse for his actions.

"I've come before the anti-doping prosecutor to lift a weight off my shoulders because I feel guilty and I need to apologise to my fans," he added.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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