Blazin' Saddles

Ricco’s black pudding

Blazin' Saddles

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Apologies for the tardy nature of this blog, but Saddles has been holed up in a hospital bed after a near-death experience last week involving black pudding and a dodgy fridge.

You see, ever since watching the film The Lost Boys, Saddles has had a penchant for the British delicacy of black pudding - a type of sausage made from blood. You could say that Saddles had an addiction. He even makes his own home-made black pudding. And given his narcissistic tendencies, it's probably no surprise that BS recently tried to make one using a pint of his own blood.

Such things are illegal - but then some trekking leopards cannot change their spots. Things took a turn for the worse this week after Saddles ate a black pudding he had made from a bag of blood left in his Fagor fridge for 25 days. You see, the fridge wasn't cold enough and having devoured the delicacy, Saddles was taken seriously ill.

Massive kidney failure; could have died. The doctor treating Saddles was so appalled, he forgot the Hippocratic oath and told the police. Now it looks like Saddles could see time behind bars - for this is his second black pudding-related infringement. Dark times, indeed.

Talking of black pudding, it is often said that Riccardo Ricco's blood can reputedly reach the consistency of black pudding when he forgets to set his alarm for 3am for a quick session with Vania on the rollers.

Buristo, an Italian version of black pudding, includes raisins, pine nuts and pig snouts. Which is apt: after all those porkies he's been telling, that Italian hog Ricco sure must have a long nose. Maybe we should start calling him something eruditely ribald such as Pinoricchio? (Buristo, incidentally, is also known as 'head cheese' - something Ricco clearly lacks.)

The French word for black pudding - boudin - is also the pejorative word for an ugly lady, or b**** if you will. Which brings Saddles nicely on to Mark Cavendish's desire that Ricco "becomes someone's b**** in prison". Classy, Cav, very classy. Who you going to spit at next?

For all those who are completely lost at this point, Saddles will remind you of the context of these musings: the chronic renal failure, septicaemia and 41-degree temperatures Ricco brought upon himself after allegedly injecting home-stored blood ahead of the Mediterranean Tour.

CERA is clearly so 2008. Self-administered autologous blood transfusions is where it's at today - provided you don't leave your hematocrit heavy power shake in a knackered fridge for almost a month beforehand, that is.

He may have a steady supply of pointy needles at his disposal, but young Riccardo is hardly the sharpest tool in the box.

That said, it's hard to imagine Ricco doing all this by himself. The guy's obviously no Bob the Builder when it comes to DIY and to transfuse blood you need sophisticated equipment. Ricco was caught out not for failing tests - but for bungling the storage. Surely he had help?

All this comes after the 27-year-old Italian vowed he had turned over a new leaf. The Cobra was dead, Ricco claimed earlier this year. In fact, just a few weeks ago Ricco spoke of how he planned to prove himself in this season's big races "in the hope of seeking redemption with my fans".

Two months prior to that, Ricco spoke of the responsibility he felt towards his trainer, the late Aldo Sassi, the renowned anti-doping advocate who died of a brain tumour in December. "I really need to honour him on the bike," said Ricco. Clearly that honour didn't extend to the realms of his kitchen.

But Saddles isn't going to get dragged down by debating the morals of a man who once swore on the grave of his grandmother that he had never used EPO. You see, targeting Ricco with vitriol is just too easy - as many of the peloton have proved.

Besides Cav's quip about prison, Ricco's colleagues have been quick to lambast a man who was already the lanterne rouge of the peloton in the popularity stakes.

"Catchya Ricco. You'll be missed. Like a hole in the head," tweeted Greg Henderson. "Goodbye Riccardo! We won't miss you!" added Manuel Quinziato. "Good riddance," hash-tagged Christian Vande Velde. "Once an idiot, always an idiot. I think we should send him to the moon," mused Fabian Cancellara.

One rider, when the Italian's condition was still critical, even went so far as saying Ricco would be doing everyone a favour if he didn't recover.

So, from this we can safely deduct that the general consensus is that Ricco should either be thrown into prison, shot in the head, put out of his misery, sent off this planet, or generally ridiculed.

It's sure easy to hit a man when he's down - especially a man as unlikable and slimy as Ricco.

But singling him out as the peloton's bully boy does oversimplify the situation. If doping in cycling was restricted to a few individuals this could well be a worthy tactic, but the sheer regularity of doping cases in recent years proves that this is a problem of the collective. Getting rid of Ricco will improve things, but it won't solve the doping conundrum.

As Joe Papp says: "Flawed as he is, and seemingly guilty of a revolting second doping violation, Riccardo Ricco is the convenient villain who allows an entire peloton of dubious pro cyclists to manifest a mock sense of justice."

You see, doping - like any problems in life - actually serves a purpose to many. It's a necessary evil to give the innocents (and even some of the guilty) a veneer of sanctimony. Attacking Ricco gets everyone off the hook. It's like the man being accused of racism stressing just how many black friends he has.

Above anything, the Ricco situation is immeasurably sad. A young man almost killed himself due to a cocktail of addiction and warped psychology. Ricco can't do anything but ride a bike - and now he can't even do that. He is facing probable bankruptcy, maybe even a prison sentence. A wife and a small child are involved.

Ricco's idol Marco Pantani killed himself over his demons. He did this after a pretty successful career, it has to be said. A career that Ricco won't be able to have. The guy needs serious help if his fate is not going to follow the same path as his predecessor.

And what about the old adage, 'innocent until proven guilty'? The Italian hasn't failed a test since his comeback - and despite the expansive press coverage, this story is yet to be well and truly confirmed.

Before getting all serious, Saddles was going to suggest that, maybe, like him, Ricco was merely into black pudding. Perhaps Robert Pattinson, the Twilight saga and bags of blood really floated his boat. Heck, the guy loves himself so much he may simply have been trying to clone himself so that he can race both the Tour of California and the Giro simultaneously.

But the truth is probably the opposite: Ricco clearly has no self-respect or self-love whatsoever if he's prepared to lie and go to such extraordinary dangerous lengths to achieve a success he knows would not be real. The guy needs our help.

The real questions that should be asked are numerous: why was Ricco given no mentor after Aldo Sassi passed away? Why did Vacansoleil sign him in the first place? Who has been helping him? Why are some riders prepared to crucify him, but say nothing against other more high-profile offenders?

Ricco, you see, is a convenient truth.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: "Just had the pleasure of having my morning shower as (Juan Antonio) Flecha could hold his bowels no more and came in and had a dump." Too much information, Bradley Wiggins.

"He says he won't eat beef again in his sporting career, because he doesn't want to risk another positive. He does eat pork and chicken, but no beef since August." Alberto Contador's spokesman on his client's eating habits.

"Rodriguez Zapatero says that 'there is no legal reason to sanction Contador'," the office of the Spanish Prime Minister wrote on the government's Twitter feed. Over to you, Silvio Berlusconi...

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