- (Photo: Twitter/Ricardo RICCO 'Il Cobra')
Riccardo Ricco has been banned from the racing circuit after reports of his drug use gained international attention.
The Vacansoleil cyclist is only 28 but has already suffered several years of drug abuse. In 2011 Ricco was hospitalized with kidney failure, at which time he told doctors that he had been injecting blood stored in his home as part of the addiction.
Sources revealed that Ricco's kidney failure and intestinal and lung problems were a result of a bad blood transfusion. An investigation by the Italian Olympic Committee announced that it had "opened disciplinary proceedings against [him] on the basis of news which has appeared in the press."
Ricco was stripped of two victories in the 2008 Le Tour race after he admitted to using a banned substance. Even though he hasn't raced since 2011, the 12 year ban has been imposed as a severe punishment for his second drug-related offense.
In 2010 he hoped to shed his bad-boy image and nickname "il Cobra" and turn his career and life around. "I'm no longer aggressive like I used to be," he told Cyclingnews. "Once upon a time it would have bothered me if the Italian papers talked more about [Ivan] Basso, [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Michele] Scarponi than me, but not anymore."
"The phony wars don't interest me anymore. I've calmed down a lot. I'm tranquillo [tranquil] now. The Cobra is dead! You don't believe me? It's true," he added.
He also spoke about the amount of drug testing required of cyclists in the UCI circuit. "Personally, I don't agree with it. I mean, where does it end? Unless they test us 24 hours a day… But it's also not up to me to decide. If the authorities go ahead with it, we'll have to accept it," he told Cyclingnews.