NIMES, France (AFP) — Spanish cycling team Saunier Duval have sacked Italian Riccardo Ricco following his positive doping control for EPO (erythropoietin) at the Tour de France, it was announced Friday.
Team manager Mauro Gianetti said that both Ricco and his Italian teammate Leonardo Piepoli, who was also kicked out even though he didn't test positive, had infringed the team's code of ethics.
The 24-year-old Ricco won two stages on this year's race but left the Tour under a police escort on Thursday following his positive test for the banned blood booster after the fourth stage time trial.
The 36-year-old Piepoli won the prestigious 10th stage to the summit finish of Hautacam in the Pyrenees.
The entire Saunier Duval team left the Tour of their own accord prior to Thursday's 12th stage.
Gianetti's integrity as manager of the Spanish team has come under attack from Tour chief Christian Prudhomme.
"After speaking to the management of Saunier Duval this morning they decided to leave on their own accord," Prudhomme said Thursday.
"But in general, I certainly don't feel that their manager is a model of virtue."
He added: "There's two ways to look at how they left the race. One is to say they are responsible (for Ricco's positive test), but that would make it appear like an admission (of guilt).
"The future will reveal more to us, hopefully the near future."
Swiss manager Gianetti said Friday he was "totally unaware of any doping practices going on in the team".
The news of the double sacking emerged only minutes after Ricco appeared at a court in Foix, near the Pyrenees, to answer charges relating to his positive drugs control.
The possession, use and administering of banned substances is against French law.
Saunier Duval meanwhile have indicated they may pull out of sponsorship of professional cycling.
Top company official Thierry Leroy told French radion station RTL on Friday: "It is highly probable that we will pull out of sponsoring cycling following this affair".
Leroy said he was "disappointed and angry" and was ready to launch legal proceedings against the team if organised doping was proven.
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