Anonymous rider describes how team doping started
Michael Boogerd says he doesn't want to be "the scapegoat" in a Rabobank doping story, and an anonymous former rider has said that team-wide doping started in 1999. A Dutch media report also claims that Michael Rasmussen is named in Levi Leipheimer's affidavit to USADA as having used EPO.
Interviewed on NOS tv Saturday evening, Boogerd said that before he says too much about doping, he first wants to see what his teammates say. “Because if I'm the only one saying what I know, I will soon be the scapegoat.”
In an extensive investigative report, the Dutch newspaper NRC claimed to have proof that Boogerd, Thomas Dekker, Denis Menchov and Michael Rasmussen all traveled to Austria for blood doping whilst riding for Rabobank. Boogerd has admitted to meeting in Vienna with Stefan Matschiner, the man behind the Humanplasma blood-doping scheme, but says it was only “for vitamins”.
A former Rabobank rider, who chose to remain anonymous, told NOS that there was indeed a doping programme at the team, starting after the 1999 Tour de France. That had been a disastrous race for the Dutch team, with Boogerd the team's top finisher at 56th overall, and with only one stage win as Robbie McEwen took the final stage.
"Just go ahead and assume that ninety percent of the peloton used EPO,” the anonymous rider said. "We as a team got together and said: Guys, we are suddenly being passed by riders who in the past belonged to the middle of the pack. There is something going on."
That something was thought to be doping, and the question was how to respond. "We said we can go two ways, either we stop or we also use doping. And that's when it was done."
The doping programme was not run by team doctor Geert Leinders, Boogerd insisted, despite Leipheimer's claim the team doctor sold him EPO and helped him use it. “I rode for that team for 15 years and I know him. It just can't be true. I do not believe it and the people who know him know that it is certainly 100 percent not true.”
Rasmussen's name also appeared in the NRC story not only as a participant in the blood-doping scheme, but also as having used EPO. Although the name of the rider is blacked out in the publicly-released version of Leipheimer's affidavit, NRC says that the original says “During my time on Rabobank I was aware that Michael Rasmussen was using EPO, and on several occasions we discussed his EPO use.”
Rabobank announced earlier this year that it was withdrawing as the sponsor of the team, saying “We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.”
The team itself is currently involved in a number of doping-related problems: a court case with Rasmussen for wrongful dismissal, Carlos Barredo has been charged under the biological passport programme; Leipheimer's discussion of doping at the team during his tenure; and now the revival of the blood-doping story.
The team will carry on in the 2013 season as Blanco Pro Cycling. It will continue to search for a new sponsor whilst the bank continues its financial obligations to the team.