National body steps in after UCI approves cyclist's transfer to Team Meridiana...

Riccardo Riccò, who was yesterday reported to have been cleared by the UCI to join the Italy-based but Croatia-registered team Meridiana, has today been suspended by his own national governing body for the sake of his health.

In a statement, the Federazione Ciclistica Italiana (FCI) said that its committee for the protection of health, presided over by Dr Luigi Simonetto “had today made provisions to suspend the athlete Riccardo Riccò from competitive activity for reasons relating to the health of the athlete himself.”

Campania-based Team Meridiana revealed that it had signed Riccò last week and that he was due to ride in the Tour of Serbia later this month.

The 27-year-old has not raced since being fired in February this year by Dutch ProTeam Vacansoleil-DCM after being hospitalised with kidney failure following an apparent attempt at a self-transfusion of blood.

At the time, FCI President Renato Di Rocco urged Riccò to give up the sport for the sake of his family, calling him “a young man who is ill on the inside.”

Riccò had joined the Dutch Vacansoleil from Ceramica Flaminia, the Italian team he joined following his return from his ban resulting from a positive test for CERA in the 2008 Tour de France, in which he had won two stages for Saunier Duval.

After his return to the sport last year, Riccò had begun working with the Italian coach Aldo Sassi, well known for his anti-doping stance. The relationship was all too brief, however, as Sassi fell victim shortly before Christmas to the brain tumour he had been fighting.

No charges have yet been brought against Riccò by either the anti-doping authorities or public prosecutors in respect of February’s events.

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.