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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Riccardo Riccò, who is banned from cycling for doping, says he would rather see cyclists dope than use hidden motors in races.
The Italian nearly killed himself with a blood transfusion in 2011, bringing about a second suspension that runs until 2024. He now sells Italian gelato in Tenerife, Spain, where many top professional train.
“Are riders clean now? I am out of the peloton now, I don’t know,” Riccò told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s bad to think whether or not people preferred this cycling to the one from a few years ago. Chemical help under the control of a doctor, even if it’s called ‘doping’, is less dangerous than racing a hypothetical Tour on bread and water.
“And can I add that I prefer chemical doping to motors? At least you have to have the courage to bet on yourself. With motors it’s another sport. I would never be able to use them. I’d feel like crap.”
The rider Italians called “The Cobra” shot to the top of the sport by 2008 with two stage wins, the best young rider prize, and a second-place finish to Alberto Contador in the Giro d’Italia. He went to the Tour de France with Team Saunier Duval, taking two stages before failing an anti-doping test for CERA-EPO.
His return with Team Vacansoleil was cut short in 2011 when he botched a blood transfusion at home and risked dying.
“Yes,” he said when asked if he was ever afraid of doping. “Afraid of being caught by the anti-doping tests. For this reason, I always did less than they said. I never worried about my health.”
Riccò was always “exuberant and without filters, ready to explode” and said he felt abandoned by those near him when his problems started.
“Most managers and agents only think about making money. It makes me sick,” he continued. “Also, talking about doping, there are managers that know everything and give you the addresses where to go.
“The cyclists and teams pay in cycling. I’d extend the responsibility to the managers and, for the youth, the families.”
Riccò, now 34, operates his gelateria Choco Loco in El Palmar. Every morning, he goes there to make and sell the Italian dessert that’s similar to ice cream.
“I ride little, but I’ve always liked it. When I train, I’m regenerated, my mind relaxed. I watch few races,” he said.
“I see my former colleagues going as strong as before, if not more. Alejandro Valverde is like vinegar, the more he ages, the stronger he gets. I like Fabio Aru. Peter Sagan is unique and good for the sport. Vincenzo Nibali is the strongest we [Italians] have.
“I will return to race. In 2024, when my ban ends, I’ll be 40 and I’ll still be competitive. If a team doesn’t want me, I’ll create my own.”