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July 17, 2008

Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Ricco?

BBC SPORT | Ricco the latest to fail EPO test

Current King of the Mountains and white jersey leader Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval is the latest to test positive for erythropoeitin (EPO) at the Tour. His Saunier Duval team, which had three stage wins so far, withdrew before today's Stage 12.

Ricco tested positive at the 4th stage, last week's time trial. Ricco won Stage 6 and Stage 9, and was sitting in 9th overall, with the Alps yet to come. He also was 2nd in this year's Giro d'Italia.

I've seen a couple of sites suggest EPO is a retro performance enhancer, but apparently Ricco was positive for CERA (Continuous Erythropoeitin Receptor Activator), a 3rd generation version of the drug that's been called “Super EPO”.

"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.

Hope the headline reference isn't too obscure.


cyclingnews.com | Riccò positive - Saunier Duval taken out of Tour

Eurosport | Ricco EPO positive stuns Le Tour

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2008 in 2008 Stage 6, 2008 Stage 9, 2008 Tour de France, Doping, Riccardo Ricco, Top Stories, Tour de France 2008 | Permalink


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Great headline.

And good riddance.

Ricco's win last week was so Landisesque it beggared belief. Surely the clean-out is almost complete?

Please, please...please, let it be.

Posted by: via collins at Jul 17, 2008 8:11:22 AM

Given all the press reports, letour.fr seems awfully shy about reporting the news today.

Posted by: noelle at Jul 17, 2008 8:18:16 AM

Has Ricco admitted to taking CERA? What is interesting in this case is that Ricco has been arrested. You have two lines of investigation with two standards of evidence. The WADA one where the standard is our labs never make mistakes and you are guilty until you prove you are innocent and then you are still guilty and how dare you even attempt to prove your are innocent. In that system your best bet is the cop a plea, be remorseful and take your suspension. Then there will be the criminal investigation where there is a more level playing field. If you are innocent, you can show the difficulty of testing for CERA and the problems and validity of the testing procedures at LNDD and you will stand a chance of having the evidence thrown out. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Posted by: Bill K at Jul 17, 2008 10:42:49 AM

I can't do that "defend the rider" thing anymore, like Tyler's evil blood twin or Landis and the Jack Daniels. It's their own damn fault for not having representation, better defending themselves, or just accepting the consequences and, as CSC would put it, "harden the fuck up."

The riders are as vested in cleaning the Tour and the sport up as the promoters and why they've becomes just pawns in this I really don't know.

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 17, 2008 3:23:50 PM

I wonder if I'm the only one who has a clear head about this doping hysteria? Why does everything think it is cheating? If one rider has a better bike than another, that's not cheating, but if the technology is applied to the body it is cheating?

Read my blog for a philosophical perspective on this. www.blogisdead.net

Posted by: Trevor at Jul 17, 2008 3:32:43 PM

Ok, this is the end. We need daily drug tests on the tour for every rider. It's not about Ricco, it's the other clean riders that could have stood on the podium. As long as there is room to cheat, people will. If everyone knows they will be giving blood, not urine every day, their ability to cheat will be curtailed. The only other option is going to a "Singaporean solution" where one positive test brings a huge penalty (imprisonment,forfiture of all assets etc).

Posted by: Anton at Jul 17, 2008 9:51:22 PM


there are certainly arguments in favour of allowing performance enhancing substances, and there is definitely a lot of cant, hypocrisy, and wooly thinking around the issue of drugs in sport.

BUT, cycling has an unbelievably high death rate for young ex athletes. Far higher, AFAIA, than any other sport. Sure, let's open the debate into PES to rational discussion. But, simply because it is not always conducted rationally, does not mean there isn't a lot of merit in the general concept.

In this case, leaving aside all else, the rules are you must not take any one of a whole swag of substances. When you sign up, you sign onto that, and breaking the rules = cheating. Even if those rules are (as I don't believe they are in this case) arbitrary.
If you ride a bike below a certain weight, you are cheating too. So your assertion that having abetter bike is not cheating is not necessarily the case. Rules is rules, and provide at least some kind of level playing field. It's the breaking of them that constitutes cheating.

Posted by: John Allsopp at Jul 17, 2008 10:43:03 PM

Is it just me, or is Ricco the guy who got caught, and the rest of the Tour participants are just hiding it better? Am I crazy? This is so GD frustrating because cycling is supposed to be healthy and positive. This EPO craze makes no sense to me. What happened to honesty and integrity? it's gone...

sincerely, pissed off.

Posted by: skeptical at Jul 18, 2008 12:19:13 AM

Trevor, thanks for the refreshing perspective :-)

Posted by: Millard Baker at Jul 18, 2008 2:14:14 AM

I don't think we are near the end of the doping crisis in cycling. The teams haven't implemented the right motivation yet to keep riders from gambling with drugs; nor has baseball or any other sport.
Here is how you fix it:

Athletic contracts should be weighted heavily toward payment at the end of the contract, not the beginning. Eliminate signing bonuses, add in completion bonuses.(the contracts should have plenty of clauses that protect an athlete if injured while legally performing their sport.)
And, if they get caught doping, they're permanently banned from the sport.

Remove the risk/reward element from doping and riders won't dope.

Posted by: Joe Burns at Jul 18, 2008 5:52:02 PM