Blazin' Saddles: Angel or Devil?

Eurosport - Wed, 03 Feb 17:27:00 2010

There's an interesting picture on an Italian sports website that shows a grinning Riccardo Ricco and his brunette cyclist girlfriend Vania Rossi arm in arm, both sporting matching blue T-shirts made by the Italian clothing label AngelDevil.

Riccardo Ricco and Vania Rossi - 0

In the space of a few days what once seemed rather apt suddenly became gloriously ironic when news broke that the Cobra was, allegedly, not the only CERA-certified snake in the Ricco nest.

Yes, in a majestic twist of fate that you have all no doubt already read about elsewhere, the 26-year-old professional cyclocross racer turned in a positive test for EPO CERA at the women's national championships this January - just as her spouse Ricco is approaching the end of a 20-month ban for use of the same blood doping agent.

Naturally, Blazin' Saddles has no reason whatsoever to presume that the reformed Ricco has remotely anything to do with such chicanery. Perish the thought.

Speaking to reporters at his Flaminia-Bianchi training camp in Tuscany, Ricco was indeed eager to disassociate himself from this latest storm: "What's happened? I know as much as anyone else. I've been away from home for three months but now everyone will put two and two together and ask 'Who gave it to her?' I'll be guilty again.

"The thing that bothers me is what people will think," Rossi's compassionate other half continued. "I didn't need this but I can't go and kill myself. I'm going to carry on training.

It's a strange situation but it's nothing to do with me. We'll do the counter-analysis but in the meantime I've been splashed all over the newspapers."

Seizing an opportunity to provide a silver lining and gain some brownie points from the situation, Ricco then drew parallels with his own plight. "When I was found positive, I confessed everything. I was honest. I hope she does the same," he said angelically, before displaying his Italian roots with the classic phrase: "People know I don't like her racing, you can imagine what I think about her taking anything. Cycling isn't for women, it hurts too much."

BS can't help but think the implication in this last sentence is that doping isn't for women because it's a man's game. Besides, why would a woman be on a bike when she should be at home, looking after the family, cleaning the house etc?

"I trust her," continued Ricco. "If she tells me something, I believe her. I don't think she tells lies. At least I hope so because otherwise it a mess, especially with a baby involved."

A mess indeed - and more than the habitual dirty nappies/diapers you usually associate with raising young children (not that Ricco would know - he's "been away from home for three months" training).

While Rossi denies taking CERA, she has admitted she breast fed her six-month son Alberto prior to the anti-doping control on January 10.

Cyclingnews reported that Roberto Corsetti, the Liquigas team doctor, told Gazetta of the perils of mixing doping boobs and babies: "Taking CERA during breast feeding is crazy because the drug is passed on to the baby via the mother's milk. Mothers should try and avoid taking any medicines, never mind something like CERA."

The idea that someone closely associated with Ricco should be caught with her fingers in the cookie jar should not come as such a surprise. But what is astonishing is the fact that Rossi is accused of taking EPO while still breast-feeding little Alberto.

Of course, there's the possibility that the B-sample comes back negative, or the even slimmer chance that Rossi is anaemic and took the drugs for medical reasons. But the way it is, it looks likely that EPO was used to speed up her competitive return to the sport following her pregnancy.

All this leaves BS rather sorry for poor Alberto, the biggest victim of the crime.

Not only does he have parents that seemingly can't tell the difference between telling lies and being honest, between cheating and winning fairly; parents who have an appalling dress sense and who can't differentiate the subtle nuances between the works of the devil and that of angels - he's also could have blood like jam and more erythropoietin receptors in his bone marrow than the son of the Incredible Hulk.

By the age of three he'll be asking for CERA in his milk so he can make the step up from tricycle to stabilisers; while other six year olds idolise pop stars like Zucherro he'll have a picture of Marco Pantani on his wall and his ears pierces with golden hoops; and when it comes to taking exams at school, he'll take a leaf out of his family's moral compass and write all the answers down on his arm after downing a can of Red Bull.

Still, Rossi's probable subsequent ban will mean Ricco will get his wish and his girlfriend will spend more time off the bike and at home. Every cloud, eh?

THOUGHT FELTCH: The whole John Terry saga got Saddles thinking about the ramifications of something similar happening within the world of cycling. Just suppose (hypothetically) the captain of the peloton, Lance Armstrong, had had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of a former team-mate (George Hincapie, for instance), then how would the press and fellow cyclists react? Food for thought. Talking of which, it's time for. . .

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "My body is super sensitive. I'm the worst one on the team and you name it, I'm allergic to it - all dairies, oregano, basil, garlic, beef, pineapple, strawberries, sprouts, beans, sardines, a lot of fishes, the list goes on." Best not take Dave Zabriskie out for pizza then. . .

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the day on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze

Felix Lowe / Eurosport

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