Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco was banned for 12 years by the country’s anti-doping tribunal on Thursday for self-transfusions of his own blood.
The tribunal agreed with the length of the ban proposed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in October. Ricco was also fined 5,000 euros (US$6,588) and ordered to pay legal costs of 15,000 euros.
The ban for a second doping offense will almost certainly end Ricco’s career, as he turns 29 in September. Ricco, who finished second in the 2008 Giro d’Italia, was once hailed as a future Italian cycling great before tarnishing his career.
Ricco has not raced since he was rushed to a hospital after falling ill at his home near Modena in February last year.
The doctor who treated him reportedly told police the cyclist confessed to using transfusions of his own blood, which he allegedly kept in his home refrigerator.
He was fired by Dutch team Vacansoleil-DCM after the incident. Ricco was preparing to race again after joining third-division team Meridiana-Kamen, but CONI provisionally suspended him in June “for reasons related to the athlete’s own health.”
Ricco had been banned for 20 months after testing positive for the blood-booster CERA following victories in two mountain stages at the 2008 Tour de France. His team at the time, Saunier-Duval, fired him.
“Ricco’s case is noteworthy for the expansion of criminal case-type investigative tools — including informers and insiders — to develop and prove anti-doping cases,” said Maurice Suh, a former prosecutor and partner with Gibson Dunn’s Collar Defense and Investigations practice, which has advised professional athletes in doping cases.
“No longer are anti-doping cases driven by random testing, but other investigative tools have become important,” Suh said.