Vacansoleil has suspended controversial Italian rider Riccardo Riccò, who was hospitalized earlier this week after an apparent botched blood transfusion.
The team announced Friday on its Website that the Dutch-registered ProTeam notified Riccò by letter he was suspended.
“Internal research results following the illness and rumors regarding Ricco has given the team sufficient reason to suspend Italian with immediate effect,” the team announced Friday. “Last Tuesday, the team started an urgent investigation following the hospitalization of Riccardo Riccò. Three days later the results of this study brought the team to the conclusion that an immediate suspension of Ricco was required. The violation of internal regulations of the team and other indications justify this measure. Today Ricco received a registered letter on this matter.”
Riccò was hospitalized late Sunday in Modena, Italy, after his body temperature rose to 104F and he showed symptoms of kidney failure. His father rushed him to an Italian hospital, where doctors later transported him to a better-equipped facility. Riccò remained in critical condition overnight and his condition improved earlier this week.
It didn’t take long before Italian police and officials from the national Olympic Committee acted on a tip that Riccò allegedly told doctors that he might have a botched a blood transfusion. Riccò was supposed to have raced the Tour Méditerranéen this week, which concluded its third stage today.
Authorities searched Riccò’s home and are expanding an investigation into the controversial Italian rider.
Riccò tested positive for CERA-EPO during the 2008 Tour de France and served a reduced ban, returning to competition last season. With a second offense, Riccò is facing a possible lifetime ban from racing.
He penned a deal to race the last part of the 2010 season with Vacansoleil, which was promoted to the elite, ProTour status. Many wondered about Vacansoleil’s wisdom in signing Riccò, who had promised that he was now racing clean.
On Friday, Vacansoleil officials said they have been considering legal action against the rider.
“Besides the suspension the team has also put the working relationship with Riccò up for discussion, the team will of course follow appropriate legal route on this matter,” the communiqué read “The team cannot prejudge but emphasizes that a zero-tolerance policy towards doping is practiced.”
There has not been any comment from Riccò about the events of the past week.