Italian rider Riccardo Riccò of Saunier Duval has tested positive for blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO), French sports daily L'Equipe reported on their website on Thursday. According to the paper's Damien Ressiot, one of the climber's urine samples collected by the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD showed traces of a third generation EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator).
Riccò, who won two stages in the Tour de France (the sixth and ninth), was ninth on general classification before the news broke on Thursday morning. The Italian's impressive performances have in the past been explained by his naturally high hematocrit level.
The Italian from Spanish team Saunier Duval was part of a targeted group of riders. Since the start of the race in Brest, the AFLD performed numerous anti-doping tests on him, at least four according to L'Equipe.
Riccò will not continue the race. This morning at the start of stage 12 from Lavelanet to Narbonne, he was taken from his team bus into a team car, which drove away. There was no information as to where he was driven, or if the transport involved French police forces.
Cyclingews will update this Newsflash as the story unfolds.