Italian Riccardo Ricco is planning to return to the Tour de France in 2011, the race where he tested positive for EPO in 2008. He is searching for a top-level team to take him there after paying €75,000 to leave team Ceramica Flaminia one year early.

Ricco’s last race with the Italian second division team, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, will be at the GP Camaiore on Saturday.

There are reportedly a few teams interested in signing Ricco. One may even offer him the possibility to race the Vuelta a España.

For a chance to race the Tour de France, Ricco needs sign for a ProTour level team.

He last raced at the ProTour level in 2008 with team Saunier Duval. He won three stages of the Giro d’Italia with the Spanish team, and in 2008 finished second behind Alberto Contador.

Two months later he tested positive for blood booster EPO-CERA at the Tour de France after winning two stages. The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) announced the result mid-race on July 17, after he had won at Super-Besse and Bagnères-de-Bigorre. He subsequently lost his stage wins and served a 20-month suspension.

During the suspension (last June) Ricco signed a contract to the end of 2011 with Ceramica Flaminia. He immediately gave the team wins: a stage in Settimana Lombarda, a stage and second overall behind Alexandre Vinokourov at Giro del Trentino, and two stages and the overall Tour of Austria.

This year’s Tour de France saw the return of two riders who were involved in high-profile doping cases: Ivan Basso and Alexander Vinokourov. Basso was part of the 2006 Operacion Puerto investigation and Vinokourov was caught blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France.

Other riders have failed to return to the top of the sport. Michael Rasmussen, who was kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France while wearing the yellow jersey for lying about his whereabouts, has never returned to any descent level of competition.

  • Mark

    You know what ? I am sick to death of all these cheating “ex-”drugs cyclists returning to the sport after serving too short a ban. We saw the Tour on the Col du Tourmalet this year – seeing Vino still riding, a man who, like Landis AND Virenque for years, never admitted to cheating, really stuck in my throat. I felt like booing him, but was too polite for that. It was all he deserved – after all, he was little help to Contador in the Tour this year, only looking after his own interests.

    When will the UCI realise that it is simply not enough to keep offering these short 2-year bans – lifetime bans is what we need, and we need them NOW. I wish they’d stop pussy-footing around and get tough on these people

  • Mike

    Im with you all the way Simon.
    It is fairly obvious by the number of positives and bans, over the last few years, that a two year ban is no deterent to riders who are prepared to cheat.
    As far as I am concerned if something is not working, you fix it. At least raise the ban to four or five years as this would be half a career for a pro cyclist and they may not think it worth the risk.
    At the moment two years has put of no one.

  • Simon

    When are we going to give these cyclist who still persist in cheating a full life time ban. It must be the way forward. Why should someone like Ricco get the opportunity to ride on the biggest stage again. Life time bans would surely help. Two year bans aren’t enough you can still come back and get something out of your career from this. Two years bans are not a big enough deterrent for athletes!

  • jimmy Rutherford

    I feel a little upset and let down with your mag when I buy your mag week in and week out looking for results and racing info is gettinig less and less no Reports master level you have no results in for the British masters track chamionships or the europeans track championships which the organisers do a fantastic jobs on limited budgets thanks jimmy

  • Adder

    Oh goody. The return of the snake, sorry, the cobra. Presumably he’s turned over a completely new leaf and will never do anything remotely clandestine ever again. STOP PRESS: A Gloucester Old Spot was seen coming in to land at Heathrow earlier today.