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Report: Ricco vows return to cycling 'stronger than before'

7/19/2008

ROME -- Italy's Riccardo Ricco, who was
sacked from his team after testing positive for the
blood-boosting drug EPO on the Tour de France, has vowed to
return to the sport.

Ricco, runner-up in the Giro d'Italia and winner of two
stages on the Tour, tested positive after the fourth stage of
the race. He has denied any wrongdoing.

"I'll return and I'll return stronger than before," the
24-year-old climbing specialist was quoted as saying in
Saturday's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

His Saunier-Duval team pulled out of the Tour on Thursday following the
announcement by the French Anti-Doping Agency and sacked
Ricco along with fellow Italian Leonardo Piepoli.

Ricco reportedly returned to Italy after being
interviewed by an investigating magistrate on Friday and
spending Thursday night behind bars.

Under recent French legislation, a rider is liable under
criminal law for using or possessing banned substances.

"The magistrate listened to all I had to say and searched
the bag and everything," he said. "They did not find anything,
apart from the usual vitamins that we all use. So he decided to
send me home because there was nothing."

When asked if he had taken EPO, Ricco replied: "You'll know
this in the next few days. On Saturday I'll go to my lawyer to
start my defense."

Ricco is the third rider to test positive for EPO on the
2008 Tour after Spaniards Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas
Nevado.