The UCI has strongly rejected a claim made on Twitter yesterday evening by the banned Italian cyclist Riccardo Riccò that 44 riders, tested positive for EPO or its variant CERA during the 2008 Tour de France, beyond the four who have officially ever been sanctioned.
The 29-year-old won two stages of the race but was sent home from it and fired by his Saunier-Duval team after testing positive for CERA. He would ultimately receive a 20-month ban as a result of that positive test, reduced from the maximum 24 months due to the co-operation he had given to the authorities.
Yesterday evening during an exchange on Twitter with Rome-based website Cycling Pro, Riccò said he knows the identity of all the riders in question, but won’t divulge the list.
In a further tweet on Tuesday evening, the Italian claimed that one of the four riders who had been revealed as testing positive during the race had, by mistake, been sent to their home address a list of the 48 names of all those testing positive.
The tweets were reported this morning on the website Cycling News, and given that Riccò is currently serving a 12-year ban as a result of the botched self-administered blood transfusion early last year that led to him being hospitalised, and also resulted in him being sacked by Vacansoleil-DCM, many would have expected that to be the end of the matter.
However, the UCI - not itself mentioned in any of the tweets - moved today to categorically reject Riccò’s claims, while at the same time underlining that it was not itself directly involved in anti-doping measures at the 2008 Tour.
In a statement, world cycling's governing body said:
An article in Cycling News today reported that the Italian rider Riccardo Riccò, who is currently suspended for doping until April 2024, claimed on social media that many more riders had tested positive for EPO at the 2008 Tour de France than the four who were caught.
Riccò, Stefan Schumacher, Leonardo Piepoli and Bernhard Kohl all returned positive tests at the 2008 Tour. But Riccò claimed on his Twitter account that more riders had tested positive.
This unsubstantiated claim is totally untrue. In the 2008 Tour de France, the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) was solely responsible for carrying out all anti-doping testing. The UCI was not involved in the testing as the 2008 Tour de France was not on the UCI calendar but was organized as a national event.
However, any adverse analytical finding from a test that was carried out during the 2008 Tour de France was reported by the lab directly to AFLD with a copy to UCI and WADA and was seen and reviewed by AFLD, UCI and WADA. It is simply not possible for a positive test to be covered up.
The categorical statement in that final sentence comes the day after British Cycling president Brian Cookson, publishing his manifesto for the UCI presidential election in September, vowed that if he were elected he would make it a priority to authorise a fully independent investigation into allegations that the UCI has colluded in covering up positive tests in the past – an accusation levelled at it in USADA’s Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case.
While the timing may explain the UCI's decision to go public in its vehement denial of Riccò's claims, it may seem to many unusual that it has chosen to respond in such a way to him, especially given the fact that the governing body itself was not mentioned.
Some may however see parallels with its past attacks on Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, among others, regarding the allegations they made against Lance Armstrong, ones that the UCI long condemned as false, although ultimately in backing USADA's lifetime ban of the Texan last October, the governing body accepted them as true, even before his confession.
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.