"All our riders gave us guarantees that they were clean. Ricco swore on his mother's head that he has never turned to illegal substances or means to improve his performance."
Ricco admits taking EPO before Tour de France
ROME, July 30 (Reuters) - Italian Riccardo Ricco admitted on Wednesday that he took the blood-booster EPO before this month’s Tour de France.
Ricco, who tested positive in a doping control after the fourth stage of the three-week race, now could face a two-year ban after appearing before the Italian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping prosecutor.
“I came here and I have explained the error I made, I think you all know 13 days ago the position that I was in, I think I have made a good gesture for everyone to have admitted my mistakes,” Ricco told reporters.
The 24-year-old also warned that testing procedures needed to be looked at.
“During the tour they made a lot of tests, they made 10 tests in about 13 legs, two were positive and in fact in theory all the tests should have been positive therefore the method needs to be checked,” he said.
When results of the positive test came out on July 17, a French prosecutor said Ricco had denied any wrongdoing.
The rider was kicked out of the race and sacked by his Saunier-Duval team, who left the Tour as a whole.
Italian media have speculated that because he has now confessed, Ricco may receive a discount to the usual two-year ban for positive tests.
As well as sporting sanctions, Ricco is facing a criminal probe in France. Under recent French legislation, he is liable for possession and use of drugs and could receive a maximum two years in prison and a 3,750 euro ($5,845) fine.
Fellow Italian Leonardo Piepoli was sacked by Saunier Duval at the same time as Ricco despite not failing a drugs test.
He appears before the Italian anti-doping prosecutor on Thursday after team bosses said they were unhappy with his answers when he was questioned about doping. Piepoli has made no comment.
Ricco won two stages at the Tour before his departure and finished second in the Giro d’Italia in May.
Cycling has been rocked by numerous doping scandals in recent years with several Italian riders involved.
(Reporting by Eleanor Biles, Writing by Mark Meadows in Milan, editing by Alan Baldwin)