Italy's team Ceramica Flaminia confirmed today that there was no pressure from the International Cycling Union (UCI) in its negotiations with cyclist Michael Rasmussen. Team Manager Roberto Marrone said statements by his sports director, Giuseppe Petito, in a Danish newspaper were false.
"I have never had pressure from anyone, including the UCI," Marrone told Cyclingnews. "We asked them specifically, 'Could there be problems with riders that had been disqualified?' They told us, 'Once the sporting sanction is over all riders can return.'"
Petito said the UCI was unhappy about the team talking to Rasmussen, according to Denmark's Ekstra Bladet newspaper.
"Words were attributed that were never given. We will be forced to refer [this] to our lawyers in order to protect our business," Marrone told Cyclingnews.
Rasmussen's former team Rabobank forced him out of the 2007 Tour de France while in the race leader's yellow jersey. The team made its decision after discrepancies were discovered in Rasmussen's whereabouts declarations to anti-doping authorities.
He served a two-year ban for violating anti-doping rules that ended on July 25, 2009.
Rasmussen and admitted doper Bernhard Kohl previously shared a manager, Stefan Matschiner. Austrian investigators have named Rasmussen in an investigation of organised blood doping that they said Matschiner facilitated.
The Ekstra Bladet also said the UCI warned of the Austrian investigation, Humanplasma, when its ProTour Manager Alain Rumpf met Marrone on June 5.
"In a meeting held with Roberto Marrone, Rumpf never mentioned the Humanplasma affair," said the UCI in a statement Saturday.
Ceramica Flaminia eventually decided against signing Rasmussen because it had already signed Riccardo Riccò last month. Riccò is currently on suspension for testing positive for blood booster EPO during the 2008 Tour de France and will join the team in 2010.