Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco has been banned from the sport for two years after admitting to doping allegations at this year's Tour de France.
Ricco won two stages at this year's event – the second with a spectacular finish on one of the toughest mountain climbs – but was ejected from the race after testing positive for CERA, a third-generation version of banned substance EPO.
The 25-year-old, after initially denying the allegations, eventually pleaded guilty and named the doctor who had given him the substance, as well as another rider, in an effort to get a reduced punishment.
The prosecutor's office at the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recommended that he should get a 20-month ban, but their anti-doping tribunal decided to hand Ricco a more severe sentence.
"I'm very disappointed and saddened," said Ricco as he emerged from the hearing at the Stadio Olimpico.
"I expected more understanding.
"But I made a mistake and it’s right that I should pay for it now. But I can't manage to speak and I prefer to leave the rest to my lawyers."
The sentence consists of 18 months for the doping offence and a further six months for visiting Carlo Santuccione – a doctor who was banned for life from the sport for doping violations.
Ricco's lawyers revealed that they will announce within the next 30 days if they are to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Should the sentence stand, the former Saunier Duval rider will only be able to race again after July 30, 2010.