Riccardo Riccò, admitted to hospital in February last year after nearly losing his life following an apparently botched self-administered blood transfusion, has been handed a 12-year ban from sport by the anti-doping tribunal of CONI, the Italian Olympic committee, which effectively ends his career.
Riccò, who had previously served a two-year ban for doping after testing positive for EPO during the 2008 Tour de France, had been signed by Dutch outfit Vacansoleil-DCM in late 2010 after returning to the sport earlier that year with Ceramica Flaminia, and was targeting success in the Giro d'Italia during the 2011 season.
As he prepared to re-enter the sport, the 28-year-old from Modena had come under the guidance of Italian trainer Aldo Sassi, well known for his rigorous stance against doping; however, Sassi died of a brain tumour in December 2010 and it is apparent that the temptation to dope proved too much for Riccò.
In the meantime, Vania Rossi, his girlfirend and mother of his child, had herself been suspended but subsequently cleared ofdoping charges.
Riccò's positive test during the 2008 Tour de France was revealed after he had already won two stages of the race for his Saunier Duval-Prodir team, but even before the first of those victories, rumours regarding his having returned a positive result had been circulating.
Shortly after news emerged of his admission to hospital last February, the head of the Italian cycling federation described Riccò as “a young man who is ill on the inside,” and urged him to give up the sport for the good of his health, mental as well as physical.
The soap opera surrounding Riccò wasn't quite over, however.
He toyed with the idea walking away from cycling altogether and becoming a bartender, but the lure of the sport proved irresistible and after the Amore & Vita team had expressed an interest in him riding for it as long as he was prepared to help combat doping, another Italian squad, Meridiana Kamen, announced in early June that he would race for it in the Tour of Serbia.
Within days, however, CONI had suspended Riccò from all competition.
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.