News feature, November 9, 2007
By Katharina Schulz and Laura Weislo
At a press conference today in Hellerup near the Danish capital of Copenhagen, Michael Rasmussen for the first time spoke up about the events leading up to farewell from the Tour de France. He admitted that he has not been telling the public the truth about his whereabouts in the period in question.
"I would like to clearly state that I was not in Mexico in June. I have therefore misinformed both the UCI and the public. It is however important for me to stress that at no point did I lie to the Rabobank team," Rasmussen said. Rasmussen insisted that his employer Rabobank knew the truth. "I have never told lies to Rabobank. They knew all the time where I was and why."
Rasmussen has provided Rabobank's commission of investigation with all information about his whereabouts, and stated that he will give the exact same information to the UCI – together with documentation, which proves that he actually stayed in these places.
Rasmussen was in the yellow jersey when the Danish federation went public with news that he had missed doping controls and dropped him from the national team. Rasmusseen had failed to report his whereabouts to the UCI in a timely fashion on several occasions, and had been warned about the issue.
Rasmussen defended himself, saying that the missed controls were from the Danish federation, which he said did not have the right to test him as his license is from Monaco. "They were Danish [Federation] controls. They don't have the right to make them," explained Rasmussen in August. "I was not in Denmark and my license is from Monaco. I did not miss the WADA or UCI controls. The UCI even made one when I was in Denmark for the national championships on June 30.
The Dane confronted the media during the Tour de France for raising a fuss about what he called an administrative issue. Rasmussen admitted today that the reasons for his untruthfulness were of a personal nature. "I did this for personal and marital reasons alone and in consideration of my family I will not elaborate further on this matter. I ask the press to kindly respect this – today and in future," said Rasmussen.
After Rasmussen stunned the world by holding onto the yellow jersey after the stage 13 time trial, the Rabobank organisation came out in support of the rider who had been hounded by the press over the whereabouts issues. "Of course, we are totally behind him," Rabobank spokesman Raymond Salet told AFP. "There is no reason to doubt him."
However, with Rasmussen was well on his way to winning the Tour after taking stage 16, the Tour was on a hair-trigger after the doping positives of Patrik Sinkewitz, Cristian Moreni, and Alexander Vinokourov. When news came out that RAI correspondent Davide Cassani had spotted Rasmussen in the Dolomites in Italy in mid-June, at the time Rasmussen was supposedly in Mexico, the atmosphere suddenly went black for the Dane.
The Rabobank team was already under pressure to answer questions about the yellow jersey's whereabouts in June prior to the Tour, and when the news came that he was spotted in Italy, the Rabobank team fired the rider and secreted him back home under cover of night. "When Rasmussen was confronted with this information he confirmed to [team manager] Theo de Rooy he was at that moment in Italy," said Rabobank press officer Jacob Bergsma at the time. "That was the reason De Rooy decided to get him out of the Tour and the team."
Rasmussen revealed today that the team knew all along that he was in Italy, and he decried the fact that the team fired him over the issue. "It is ... completely absurd that Rabobank took me out of Tour de France claiming that I had misled them. You cannot mislead people who have known the truth all along," said Rasmussen.
"For example, Rabobank knows [where I was] because I had a meeting with Erik Breukink in Bergamo. In that period I was in Italy from June 4-19, where I was in contact with several people from the team. From [June] 20 to 23, I was in the Alps, and on the 25th. I went to the Pyrenees on a ticket paid by Rabobank in order to go cycling in the Pyrenees and in Albi. A soigneur from Rabobank was with me the whole time."
After Rabobank fired Rasmussen, UCI president Pat McQuaid was quick to question the rider's credibility. Rabobank refused to pay him for the month of July, and his former team went public with questions regarding his blood profiles during his time at CSC. The Dane refused to hide, instead making appearances at several post-Tour criteriums wearing a plain yellow jersey.
The French Anti-doping Agency president Pierre Bordry announced in September that traces of Dynepo had been found in Rasmussen's urine during the Tour, although the positive tests had not been approved by WADA for use in determining doping positives.
In his statement today, Rasmussen defended himself against suspicions of doping by making public a 'biological passport' of test results from the past three years. According to the statement, the UCI is aware of all of these values. "In this connection I would like to stress that I have violated the whereabouts regulations but I have never missed a doping control performed by the UCI. From this point on I will obey all UCI rules and I am still available for control," Rasmussen promised.
"Thus, I can also tell you that after the Tour de France I have had two further out of competition tests from the UCI with no remarks," said Rasmussen. "My greatest wish right now is to ensure clarity about this matter and be able to return to professional cycling," he concluded.
Citing the UCI and "various laboratories and hospitals" as sources, Rasmussen listed off his hematocrit values since March, 2005.