Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco was sacked by his Vacansoleil team on Saturday for breaking team regulations, according to a statement released by the Dutch team.
The 27-year-old had been called to explain himself to the team management after he aroused suspicion when he was admitted to hospital last week suffering from a suspected blood infection.
Rubinho Ricco, the racer’s father, said his son had suffered a “kidney failure” after a training session. But reports claimed Ricco 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.
Ricco was suspended from the team on Friday and hauled before team management on Saturday. Unconvinced by his explanation, they sacked him with immediate effect.
The climbing specialist, who returned from a 20-month suspension in March after he was found to have taken EPO substance CERA during the 2008 Tour de France, faces two investigations. The Modena prosecutor has 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”. If found guilty by both bodies the Italian – nicknamed the ‘Cobra’ – risks a life ban and a possible prison sentence of three months to three years.
© AFP 2011