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Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) is here to build form before the Tour de France. He may try something this week.
Dane gives details of team’s involvement in doping at Rabobank
Leinders' contract was not renewed with Team Sky this season after his name was raised in suspicion of past doping involvement. Sky denied the non-renewal was due to its zero-tolerance policy on doping.
Rasmussen, who is currently litigating for wrongful termination from the Rabobank team after it sacked him in 2007 over whereabouts violations, is hinging his 5.6 million euro case on proving that the team knew he was purposefully eluding the anti-doping authorities in order to dope as preparation for the Tour de France.
He stated that the team management and medical staff, including Dr. Leinders, Dr. Dion van Bommel and Dr. Jean-Paul van Mantgem all knew about the doping programme. Van Bommel, who is currently with Team Blanco, was "not directly involved, just in the sense that he was informed about it by van Mantgem and Dr. Leinders, he didn’t actually take part."
But Rasmussen insisted Leinders did take part in the doping programme, from knowledge of the Dane’s past history when signing with the team to sticking the needle in his arm to start a transfusion in 2004.
"I used [transfusions] for the first time in 2004, and it was done by Dr. Leinders. The courier dropped the blood bag off, he picked it up and took it to my room and infused it," Rasmussen said.
When Operacion Puerto broke in 2006, the team began to be more cautious about transfusions, Rasmussen stated, and suddenly changed its mind about using the blood in the 2006 Tour de France.
"They suddenly changed that plan and would not allow the second blood bag to be infused on the second rest day in the Tour de France," he said. Regardless of the decision, he won the stage two days later in La Toussuire.
Rasmussen said it was a mystery why they made the decision to stop transfusions. "I think they might have been afraid we looked too strong. Also you have to bear in mind it was just after Operacion Puerto, so there was quite a lot of focus on blood bags at that time after they had just discovered 250 of them in Spain … The strange thing was, they allowed the first one [on the first rest day in Bordeaux]."
He went on to detail that in 2007, the team reversed its decision and he went ahead banking blood in Vienna with the intent to use it during the 2007 race.
But on June 6, team manager Erik Breukink visited him in Italy to tell him that they wouldn’t allow any transfusions during the Tour de France, a decision that was handed down from the team management.
"I was never told 'don’t take EPO'."
Rasmussen continued with his "preparation", filing his whereabouts for June by stating he’d be in Mexico, but instead kept training in Italy, using the time to boost his hematocrit with EPO.
"[The team] knew that I was always having a time before the Tour without any racing so I could prepare myself with EPO and other medicines," he said.
In previous years – including the 2003 Vuelta a Espana and in 2005, Dr. Leinders had stored drugs such as insulin in the refrigerator on the team bus, Rasmussen said. In 2007, the inventory included DynEPO – a new blood booster that was virtually identical to the erythropoietin hormone produced in the human body since it was produced using human cell cultures rather than animal cultures.
"In 2007 DynEPO was kept in the bus, and I had some, I think someone else too. I never saw it happen, but I suspect some of those guys had DynEPO during the Tour," he said.
After years of lying about doping, Rasmussen said it feels good to finally be able to tell the truth.
"I’m glad I don’t have to lie anymore. I really don’t like it. It’s nice to be able to talk to people without having to lie.
"That was the sensation I had before. I knew every time I got the question 'have you taken doping' I had to say no because I knew if I gave an honest answer my cycling career was over."
Unlike Floyd Landis, Rasmussen was not critical of Michael Boogerd’s partial confession to doping.
"I think Michael Boogerd was under a lot of pressure to say what he said. He chose one way to do it; I chose another. I have respect for what he did. Eventually it’s his call what to say."
When asked if he had given the name Eric Dekker to the authorities, Rasmussen responded, "I have no knowledge of Eric Dekker. That is actually a very honest answer. I haven’t mentioned Eric Dekker’s name to the authorities. Maybe he stopped before I came to the team."
Now that his confession is on the table, Rasmussen feels his wrongful dismissal suit against the Rabobank team is stronger.
"Obviously, the whole concept of the whereabouts story has changed. It’s not about whereabouts, it’s about doping," he said, insisting his version was the truth, and the team is not being completely honest.
"The omerta is still living in the courtroom."