|And we thought Contador had issues
Riccardo Riccó has apparently admitted to blood doping, transfusing himself with blood that he’d stored in a fridge at home, confessing that he’d kept the sample for 25 days, that the blood could have been poorly stored during this period as a warning to the doctors. The sensational news comes from La Gazzetta Dello Sport.
I’d been cautioning about drawing conclusions. Riccó’s reputation precedes him but in the spirit of fairness anyone can get knocked by a kidney illness, right? Injecting home-stored blood is certainly one way to promote renal failure.
Riders have traditionally given themselves a boost on the eve of a major objective so the idea of infusing blood when you’re not even racing seems strange. That said Riccó was known for taking EPO out of competition, apparently in a ploy to manipulate his blood levels and he could have been doing the same in between team training camps and the start of his season.
Police raids have revealed riders storing blood for a long time, the time period of 25 days is seemingly no problem if it is correctly handled and treated. What went wrong? Was this a DIY attempt that literally went sour?
Who? Part I
Riccó may appear like the biggest idiot alive on the Italian peninsula right now but was he acting alone? Blood doping isn’t like cutting yourself, draining some blood into a mug and then using a funnel to pour it back in at the right time. Instead it’s sophisticated, the blood needs treatment and special medical equipment. Can a rider do this by themselves or was Riccó acting alone or was a doctor or “trainer” involved?
Who? Part II
Who else if you like. If blood went bad this sounds like a rare mistake. We’ve had instances of Jesus Manzano getting very ill but it seems to be very uncommon. Based on this, Riccó’s undoing wasn’t blood doping but bungled storage. If these practices have not been detected by the arsenal of anti-doping methods, from out-of-comp testing to the bio passport then many will look at the bunch and giant question marks appear over some of the riders.
Who? Part III
At best it was optimistic of Vacansoleil to hire this guy. He’s a proven liability who even styles himself as a snake. Given this you’d think the Dutch squad would keep him on a tight leash, taking big steps to accompany this guy and surrounding him with the support he needed to live clean. Indeed Riccó was going to work with Aldo Sassi, which at the time sounded encouragement but it also signalled Vacansoleil was being hands-off when it came to his training regime, leaving it to someone outside of the team. When Sassi died, who was appointed to fill the gap?
We have a guy in hospital and the police are starting an investigation. A lot of questions are building up for the moment he recovers. If the Gazzetta allegations prove to be true then this is not a matter for Riccó alone. Once again doping is a systemic issue that concerns coaching staff, teams and officials.