Riccardo Riccò, banned from cycling until 2024 as a result of doping, is reported to have been caught red-handed by Carabinieri as he attempted to buy prohibited substances including EPO and testosterone in a McDonald’s car park in Livorno, Italy, yesterday afternoon.
Riccò, who has been riding gran fondo mass participation events since he was handed a 12 year ban in April 2012, was with another cyclist, former professional Matteo Cappè, reports the Tuscan newspaper, Il Tirreno.
However, the 31-year-old, who previously served a two-year ban after testing positive for CERA on the 2008 Tour de France, a race in which he won two stages, denies that he has done anything wrong.
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said, denying that the drugs seized by the Caribienieri – 30 packages in all – had anything to do with him.
Riccò and Cappè potentially face charges relating to illegal possession of performance enhancing drugs, and the two men they were allegedly buying the products from are reportedly both under house arrest.
They are healthcare worker Fabrizio Boccolini, aged 48, and 50-year-old shopkeeper Antonio Catarsi, both of whom have been accused of dealing in drugs for doping, and who could face between two and eight years in prison.
Searches of their homes uncovered 100 packages of drugs with a value of €15,000, some marked “exclusively for hospital use,” leading to suspicions they may have been stolen.
According to the Caribinieri, the two cyclists arrived at the appointment in a car – Riccò lives in Modena, more than 200 kilometres away by road – while Boccolini and Catarsi came by scooter.
As well as a bag containing the 30 packages of doping products, officers also recovered €1,170, which they believe was to be used as payment for the drugs.
The 12-year ban given to Riccò last year resulted from a botched attempt the previous year at a self-administered blood transfusion that resulted in him being hospitalised and sacked by his then team, Vacansoleil.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.