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Tour de France

Riccò and Piepoli sacked by Saunier Duval

Saunier Duval has sacked Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli for infringing the Spanish team’s code of ethics, it was announced on Friday. Riccò was dismissed following his positive doping control for EPO (erythropoietin) at the Tour de France. Piepoli also was sacked, though he had not tested positive; team manager Mauro Gianetti said he, too, had infringed the team's code of ethics. The entire Saunier Duval team voluntarily left the Tour before Thursday's 12th stage.

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Team sponsor likely to leave the sport, may sue the management

By Agence France Presse

Piepoli with teammate Juan José Cobo on stage 10

Photo: Agence France Presse

Saunier Duval has sacked Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli for infringing the Spanish team’s code of ethics, it was announced on Friday.

Riccò was dismissed following his positive doping control for EPO (erythropoietin) at the Tour de France. Piepoli also was sacked, though he had not tested positive; team manager Mauro Gianetti said he, too, had infringed the team’s code of ethics.

The entire Saunier Duval team voluntarily left the Tour before Thursday’s 12th stage.

“I understand the reaction of the Tour de France and I can’t help but feel let down by someone (Riccò) to whom I gave my utter confidence,” said Gianetti in a team statement.

“I carried out my own inquiries, which have led me to a loss of confidence not only in Riccò but also in Piepoli — both of whom have violated the team’s anti-doping code.”

Ricco, 24, won two stages on this year’s race but left the Tour under a police escort on Thursday following his positive test for the banned blood booster after the fourth stage time trial. The 36-year-old Piepoli, 36, won the prestigious 10th stage to the summit finish of Hautacam in the Pyrenees.

Meanwhile, Gianetti’s integrity as manager of the Spanish team has come under attack from Tour chief Christian Prudhomme, who said that despite the team’s voluntary departure, “I certainly don’t feel that their manager is a model of virtue.”

He added: “There’s two ways to look at how they left the race. One is to say they are responsible (for Riccò’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.”

Gianetti retorted Friday that he was “totally unaware of any doping practices going on in the team.” He added in the team statement that he was “shocked and bitter about this sad incident,” laying the blame squarely with Riccò.

“We have always paid close attention to what our riders are doing, and have always demanded an irreproachable attitude to their profession and to our code of ethics,” said Gianetti. “All our riders gave us guarantees that they were clean. Riccò swore on his mother’s head that he has never turned to illegal substances or means to improve his performance.

“Despite all the efforts made both internally and from outside the team we have failed to avoid this deplorable situation.”

Saunier Duval, meanwhile, has indicated that it may drop its sponsorship of professional cycling. Top company official Thierry Leroy told French radio station RTL on Friday: “It is highly probable that we will pull out of sponsoring cycling following this affair.”

Leroy said he was “disappointed and angry” and prepared to launch legal proceedings against the team if organized doping were proven.