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Saturday, July 19, 2008
Report: Ricco vows return to cycling 'stronger than before'


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.