Riccardo Ricco has denied doping at the Tour de France and asked that for the counter-analysis of his urine sample taken after the Cholet time trial, according to Italian media.

According to the Gazzetta dello Sport web site and Italian television’s Alessandra di Stefano who was outside the courtroom, Ricco’s lawyer announced that the Italian denied ever taking EPO.

Ricco was taken to the Foix court in a convoy of three cars and was protected by at least 15 police officers. He was questioned in court for both the positive test in the Tour de France and for other alleged offences after police searched his belongings last night. He was released just before five o’clock and is now travelling back to Italy with his girlfriend.

Ricco has promised he will speak to Italian television and the police investigating the case will also hold a press conference this afternoon to reveal further details of the case.

Last night police escorted Ricco to the Saunier Duval team hotel and searched his bags. It is not know if anything was found. Police also stopped and searched the Saunier Duval vehicles as they left the Tour de France as rumours circulated of another positive for CERA.

FAMILY SUPPORT

Ricco?s uncle and his sister Melissa arrived in France this morning and are expected to take Ricco back to Italy. Ricco?s girlfriend Vania also arrived with her mother. Vania and Melissa both defended Ricco.

?What has happened in really sad. And I don?t think he?s responsible. I don?t think he?s got anything to be ashamed of,? Vania said.

?I?m not convinced about this story of EPO, Riccardo has always been honest but of course if some is strong and exuberant like my brother then they always find a way of get rid of you. The same thing happened with Pantani.?

Ricco?s demise has been widely compared to that of Marco Pantani. In a kind of flash back to 1999, when Pantani failed a haematocrit test at Madonna di Campiglio during the Giro d?Italia, Ricco had the same blank stare when he was taken away by French police surrounded by photographers and television cameras.

Ricco often compared himself to Pantani and imitated him in the way he attacked in the mountains but following his positive test, the Pantani family quickly got their lawyers to warn the media about making comparison?s between Ricco?s case and their tragic demise of their son.

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