Saunier Duval's Gianetti Surprised and Perplexed At Ricco' Positive
In a phone interview with RAI-TV, Saunier Duval-Scott team manager manager Mauro Gianetti was crushed by the news of his rider Riccardo Ricco's positive for EPO. "We're looking at what happened this morning and so we've suspended they acticity of the team. We know Ricco' isn't just any rider; he was our team leader at the Tour De France. Now we want to find out exactly what happened with this stuation. It's a big deal for us as you can imagine..."
Gianetti elaborated on the situation, saying "Riccardo has had a lot of controls since the beginning of the year and at the Tour he's been beens tested six times so far. But we want to understand whats going on in a very clear manner. Not only is the Saunier Duval-Scott pro team at risk from this, but we have a three amateur teams plus all the team personnel, so we owe it to our sponsors to find out exactly what's happening here with Ricco'."
Clearly anguished, Gianetti continued, "We've put in so much work to build up our teams and to develop young riders, to have a good image and we have been lucky not have presssure from out sponsors to win...Riccardo just signed a new three year contract wth us and he swore on his mother that he wasn't taking anything. Before we signed Ricco', we sent him to the Olympic laboratory in Lausanne for a week of testing that proved his natural haematocrit was above the limit. So I want to hear from Ricco' in persone, to talk to him face to face to find out just what is going on." Gianetti will have to wait until at least Friday, as Ricco' has been interrogated all day in the gendarmerie in Mirepoix and will have to spend the night in jail before facing a judge on Friday morning. Tour Boss Prudomme Pleased With Ricco Detection, Casts Saunier Duval's Manager In Bad Light
We have to look at this (Ricco' positive test) in a positive light," said Christian Prudhomme, Tour De France race director in a post-race press conference today. "We have often had doubts in the past that the controls are actually working. What has happened so far just goes to show that the noose is tightening around those who still believe they can cheat and get away with it."
A runner-up at last month's Giro d'Italia won by Alberto Contador, Riccardo Ricco is considered the biggest star to emerge in Italian cycling since the late Marco Pantani, a former winner of the Tour and Giro. Ricco fell under the doping spotlight last week when it was reported that he was one of several targets of the AFLD. He is reported to have a naturally high haematocrit level of 51, meaning the volume of oxygen-rich red blood cells in his blood is naturally higher than the norm. The UCI introduced a 'legal' limit of 50 for cyclists in 1999, after many cyclists and endurance athletes were found to be using EPO in dangerous proportions.
Last week brushed off the suspicions, saying "I know I have nothing to worry about. My blood values are high, but for me they are totally normal because I've had them since I was a kid," Ricco explained of the reports following his victory on the ninth stage. "The International Cycling Union (UCI) know that and I have a certificate from the UCI to prove that they are naturally high."
Prudhomme also looked with askance at Saunier Duval's Swiss manager Mauro Gianetti, but didn't mention him by name. "After speaking to the management of Saunier Duval this morning they decided to leave on their own accord. But in general, I certainly don't feel that their manager is a model of virtue. There's two ways to look at how they left the race. One is to say they are responsible (for Ricco's positive test), but that would make it appear like an admission (of guilt) The future will reveal more to us, hopefully the near future." Prudhomme also confirmed he had held talks with Saunier Duval earlier in the race after reports claimed that readings from a blood sample provided by Ricco had alerted anti-doping controllers to possible doping. "Yes, we spoke with Saunier Duval," Prudhomme said, who admitted to having suspicions of the team following Leonardo Piepoli's 10th stage win atop the Hautacam climb, when teammate Juan Jose Cobo came second. "I was a little suspicious when those two (Piepoli and Cobo) gave us that crushing display of superiority on the Hautacam." Prudhomme would not say whether Saunier Duval would be automatically left off the invite list for next year's race, but said his negative opinion of the team's manager would unlikely change.
"I don't think my opinion of (Saunier Duval's Swiss manager Mauro Gianetti) will change in three months, six months, two years or even five years," added Prudhomme. But for the team's sponsor, it's a catastrophe. They are the first ones to be cheated."
Ricco's positive test is the second in two years for the team, who were stunned by Iban Mayo's positive test for EPO at last year's Tour. Although his case has yet to be settled Mayo was cleared by the Spanish federation. It was later claimed by the Ghent laboratory handling his B sample that the sample was unusable. Piepoli also escaped a ban following a positive test for salbutamol at last year's Giro d'Italia, where he won a stage and helped Ricco and former teammate Gilberto Simoni to stage wins, but Piepoli has a therapeutic use exemption for salbutamol for asthma. Duenas Had Drug Stash, French Police Report
After searching Spanish cyclist Moises Duenas hotel room, French police report that they found a stash of medical material and a banned substance in his room. The 27-year-old Barloworld rider tested positive for the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) during the the fourth stage, a 29km time-trial at Cholet. "In the closet and among the rider's personal belongings, gendarmes found many things including medical material," prosecutor Gerard Aldige told the Tarbes court. "The products included syringes, needles and blood bags and a drug called TAD which is not authorised for import or sale in France. "A multitude of other products, in liquid and sachet form" were also seized," prosecutor Aldige added.
Duenas was charged with "use and possession of plants and poisonous substances" and could face up to two years in prison and a 3,750 euro fine and could also be jailed for up to three years for "the importation of banned goods".
Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti, speaking before the start of the 12th stage in Lavelanet on Thursday, denied all knowledge of the discovery and said he had yet to speak to Duenas. "I haven't spoken to any of the authorities yet so I don't know what has been found. I have questions I would like Duenas too," said Corti, admitting his team were now in a precarious situation regarding both the race organisers and their sponsor. "It's a serious situation we are in but I have explained to the organisers that we, as a team, are not implicated in this affair. "I have also spoken to Barloworld and told him everything I know." Corti said that if Duenas is the only one implicated, his team - which is now down to four riders - would be staying in the race. "If (Duenas) is the only one implicated then why should the whole team pay for it? We are cooperating and trying to deal with this together," added Corti. "If it turns out that Duenas has been doing all of this behind our backs, then we will start proceedings against him."
Top Tour de France official Patrice Clerc said Barloworld would remain in the race unless new evidence from a police investigation pointed to organised doping within the team. "For the moment I don't have any information other than that given to me by the investigating magistrate, who has mentioned the discovery of medical material (blood) transfusion bags," said Clerc. "At this time we are not in a position to say whether this is linked to any kind of organised team activity."