ROME, Italy (AFP) — Italian cyclist Riccardo Riccò will serve a 12-year suspension. An Italian Anti-Doping Tribunal ruled Thursday that Riccò administered an autologous blood transfusion in early 2011 that led to his hospitalization.
With the ruling, Riccò, 28, faces a suspension of 12 years from cycling. He was also hit with a 5,000 euro fine and ordered to pay 15,000 euros in costs.
The ban is back-dated to the beginning of the year and means he wouldn’t be eligible to compete again until January 18, 2024, when he would be 40, essentially ending his career.
Riccò fell ill on February 6, 2011 and was hospitalized with high fever and signs of kidney failure. During a subsequent investigation, the doctor that treated Riccò reported that the rider had confessed to having performed a transfusion with blood stored in a refrigerator at his home. Bacteriological analysis also revealed signs of an autologous transfusion.
Riccò maintains he is innocent and merely injected himself with an iron solution. Experts have dismissed his claims of injecting himself with an iron solution, saying it would not have produced the symptoms from which he was suffering.
Dutch squad Vacansoleil eventually sacked Riccò, nicknamed the “Cobra,” and the Italian federation refused to issue him a racing license. Riccò claimed he would quit cycling because it made him feel sick, however, he later recanted and said he wanted to continue racing. The Italian found a team in third-division Croatian squad Meridiana-Kamen.
Riccò previously served a 20-month suspension following his positive test for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France, where he won two stages.