Rabobank oust dope-suspected yellow jersey wearer

26th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PAU, France, July 26, 2007 (AFP) - Two Tour de France doping scandals in as many days were nudged temporarily to the side on Wednesday after race leader Michael Rasmussen was sensationally kicked out by his own Rabobank team.

PAU, France, July 26, 2007 (AFP) - Two Tour de France doping scandals in as many days were nudged temporarily to the side on Wednesday after race leader Michael Rasmussen was sensationally kicked out by his own Rabobank team.

The 33-year-old Danish climbing specialist has been at the centre of doping speculation since it was revealed last week that he missed four random doping controls over the past 18 months.

Despite the furore caused by the missed tests Rabobank on Tuesday voiced their support for their top rider. But they changed their minds 24 hours later when it emerged that Rasmussen had lied to them about his whereabouts in June.

"He broke team rules," said Jacob Bergsma, the team spokesman.

A former two-time winner of the race's polka dot jersey, Rasmussen has not tested positive for any banned substances.

However he has aroused plenty of suspicion on the race in the past week with incomplete, and often confusing explanations as to why he had failed to inform the authorities of his whereabouts prior to four separate random doping controls.

The breaking point for Rabobank was when they discovered Wednesday that Rasmussen had been in Italy in June, and not in Mexico, where he sometimes lives with his Mexican wife, as he had claimed.

"Michael Rasmussen was not in Mexico in June as he said he was. He did not provide the team with the correct information of his whereabouts," added Bergsma.

"As a result, it has been decided that he will not start the race tomorrow."

Bergsma said a decision on whether the rest of the team would remain in the race, which ends this Sunday in Paris, would be made on Thursday morning.

"It's a very complicated situation right now. The riders are discussing whether they should continue the race."

If the Dutch team decides to pull out from the race, the Tour would go into Thursday's 17th stage from Pau to Castelsarrasin without a wearer of the yellow jersey, and in the absence of three teams who started the prologue in London on July 7.

On Wednesday France's number one team, Cofidis, pulld out of the race after it was revealed that Italian Cristian Moreni had tested positive for testosterone.

A day earlier the Astana team of pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov was thrown out of the race after Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping following his victory on stage 13's time trial in Albi.

Rasmussen's exit came only hours after he had claimed his second stage win this year, which further boosted his hopes of becoming only the second Dane to win the race's fabled jersey.

Denmark's Bjarne Riis won the Tour de France in 1996, but ironically he is set to be stripped of that accolade after admitting he used the banned blood booster EPO (erythrpoietin) during his career.

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has for the past week been critical over the fact that Rabobank were aware of Rasmussen's missed tests, but did nothing to prevent him from racing.

The race has a strict ethical policy which states that doping cheats, and even those suspected of doping, should be prevented from taking part.

Prudhomme told AFP: "We did all we could do to rid the race of any suspicion.

"At least, we can now continue feeling we have not been dishonoured.

"This shows that no one can mock the Tour de France and think they can get away with it."

In the wake of Rasmussen's exit, Discovery Channel's 24-year-old Spanish climber Alberto Contador, one of the few riders able to keep pace with him in the mountains, will take over the race lead.

Australian Cadel Evans will move up to second overall, at 1min 53secs.

Thursday and Friday's stages will likely not be contested by the yellow jersey rivals, meaning Saturday's time trial, over 55.5km from Cognac to Angouleme, is likely to decide the race winner.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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