Riccardo Riccò will return to racing sooner than expected, after TAS today reduced his sanction by four months. The Italian climber originally received a 24 month ban for two doping offenses. He tested positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France, and he consulted the banned Dr. Santuccione. After today's decision, Riccò will now serve twenty months. He can race beginning on 18 March 2010.
The Riccò decision followed a rather convoluted path. CONI recommended an 18 month ban, after Riccò proved willing to give information. In particular, Riccò named Dr. Santuccione, infamous for his involvement in the Oil for Drugs case, as his supplier. The Italian Tribunale Nazionale for antidoping, which decides the sanctions on CONI's recommendation, chose instead to give Riccò a two year ban. This sanction still fell short of the full term for Riccò's two sins, which would have totalled 30 months. At the time of the sanctioning decision, Riccò seemed to accept his fate, saying "I was wrong, and it is just that I pay."
One month later, Riccò reversed course and decided to appeal to TAS. He filed his appeal in November, perhaps in part motivated by the short one year ban handed down to Emmanuel Sella. In particular, Riccò hoped to return in time to ride the 2010 Giro d'Italia or Tour de France. That's assuming, of course, he can find a team to hire him. Thanks to the TAS decision, he will have a license in time for both races. It remains to be seen whether he will find forgiveness and a new team to represent.