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Ricco: It’s impossible to win a grand tour without doping

The Italian serving a 12-year doping ban blasts the UCI's Cycling Independent Reform Commission and more at a book launch

MILAN (VN) — Italian Riccardo Riccò, who is serving a 12-year doping ban, attacked cycling’s credibility at the launch his book, “A Funeral in Yellow — The Confessions of The Cobra.” Riccò called cycling’s reform commission “a joke” and said it is impossible to win a grand tour clean.

“It’s cleaner now but not completely clean,” the 31-year-old told Tutto Bici.

“You can [race a grand tour clean]. I did in 2006 at the Tour de France. Winning it clean? A one-day classic, yes. A grand tour, no.”

Riccò, nicknamed “The Cobra,” rocketed to the top of cycling in 2008. He won two stages and the youth classification and placed second overall to Alberto Contador in the Giro d’Italia. His Saunier Duval team took him to the Tour de France, where he won two stages and led the mountains and youth classifications before falling from the sky after a positive test for CERA-EPO.

He returned from a doping ban in 2010 and raced for Vacansoleil, but nearly died after a botched blood transfusion at home. The Italian Olympic Committee banned him again in 2012, this time for 12 years. He will be 40 years old when his ban ends in 2024, and said he would not return to racing because it would be too controversial.

Since 2012, Riccò has kept riding and considered challenging the record times on legendary climbs, such as Mont Ventoux. He also wrote a book with author Salvatore Lombardo that was released this summer in French and Tuesday in Italian.

At the book launch in Milan, Riccò spoke about his visit to the ongoing Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC). The commission has asked riders and others in the sport to speak anonymously about the 1990s and 2000s. Its job is to uncover the sport’s dark past, to learn from its secrets, and to make recommendations for the future. Riders like Lance Armstrong, Mauro Santambrogio and Riccò have met with the commission.

“The commission? It’s a joke,” Riccò said.

“I spoke for seven hours. I gave first and last names of people that still work in cycling today: doctors, sports directors, cyclists. But I didn’t get a reduction, even if they said that I could cut my ban by more than half. The rules are interpreted and applied differently, depending on who you are.

“In terms of doping, I was just the village cobbler up against Nike. I did what everyone else was doing, in fact, maybe less so and more as a craftsman.

“Armstrong? He was a champion, but with drugs he became what he became. Jan Ullrich was more talented. He was the true talent, not the American.”

Riccò brought a snake-like venom to cycling and sparked controversy when he spoke. Despite his ban, he appeared like the same “Cobra” at his book launch.

“If I could do it again? I would not make the same errors I made,” he said. “I would not dope gain, or I’d do it in a different way.”