Ricco doping bust aided by drug maker, WADA

Updated: July 22, 2008, 10:23 PM ET
Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia -- Riccardo Ricco's blood doping case on the Tour de France was uncovered because of a molecule planted in the banned substance by the drug manufacturer, World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey said Wednesday.

Ricco, 24, won two stages before he was expelled from the Tour last week when his positive test for the blood-booster EPO was confirmed by the French anti-doping agency.

Fahey said Roche Pharmaceuticals placed a molecule in its product CERA -- Continuous Erythropietin Receptor Activator -- when developing the drug to help anti-doping authorities detect illegal use.

"I can't tell you the details of how he was detected," Fahey told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I can indicate the particular substance is called CERA ... which is a perfectly legitimate substance to deal with anemia.

"In the development of that substance close cooperation occurred between WADA and the pharmaceutical company Roche Pharmaceuticals so that there was a molecule placed in the substance well in advance that was always going to be able to be detected once a test was undertaken."

Fahey said cooperation between sports authorities and drug manufacturers was a step forward in the fight against doping.

"There's more and more of this occurring," he said. "The more cooperation the scientists can have with the drug companies in the detection of performance-enhancing drugs the greater the likelihood is they will be detected when tests are undertaken."

Pierre Bordry, the head of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) that tested Ricco, revealed that the Saunier Duval team leader tried to flee anti-doping officials after the fourth stage on July 8.

"When he knew he was going to be tested, he went off, and it is the escort who caught him," Bordry said Tuesday. "He found himself blocked off. There was a traffic jam of cars and he could not get through the cars."

Bordry said AFLD staff demanded an apology from Ricco.

"We asked him to apologize to the agency and the staff, which he did along with his team director," Bordry said. "We told him that, because of his behavior, we were now going to test him after each stage. He put a target on himself."

After Ricco's positive test, Saunier Duval quit the race. Ricco and teammate Leonardo Piepoli have since been fired.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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