Riccardo Riccò looks poised to return to racing this month with a Croatian team despite nearly dying earlier this year from an alleged botched blood transfusion.
Riccò looked close to join the Amore e Vita Italian squad when La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Riccò could join the Meridian-Kamen team, which holds a professional license in Croatia.
La Gazzetta reported that Riccò could race the Tour of Serbia, which runs from June 13th to the 19th.
It’s just the latest twist in the ongoing saga of “The Cobra,” one of the most divisive and controversial figures in the peloton.
Riccò tested positive for EPO-CERA during the 2008 Tour de France. After a 20-month ban, Riccò vowed that he had learned from his mistakes and signed a high-profile deal this season with ProTeam Vacansoleil. Just days before the start of the Tour Mediterranean in February, Riccò fell ill from an apparent botched blood transfusion that he was trying to carry out on himself. Riccò was in serious condition in an Italian hospital and the doctor who saved his life said it had all the symptoms of a blood transfusion gone bad.
Riccò, however, denies the allegations and vows to return to racing. Vacansoleil, however, immediately released him from the team. There was no immediate reaction from Italian cycling officials or the UCI, but CONI has opened an investigation into Riccò’s near-death experience.
Earlier this week, Amore e Vita team officials said they would welcome back Riccò if he agreed to five conditions imposed by the team. First, he would have to remove all rings, piercings and a diamond implant on one of his teeth to create a “new image.” He would have to end relations with his current lawyer, agent and trainer as well as live with his wife and child in a house near the team’s headquarters. The conditions also called for full compliance with the biological passport and his cooperation with authorities about any knowledge of the “doping system.”
Team boss Ivano Fanini said he wanted to give Riccò a “second chance” and had hoped to sign him in time to race the Tour of Tuscany later this month.