The management of the Rabobank team purchased a blood analysis machine in 2007 in order to mask blood doping by the squad's riders, reported today by nrc.nl. Rabobank director Theo de Rooij acquired a Sysmex XE-2100, the same device used by anti-doping inspectors to measure the number of young red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin in the blood, and reported that the machine would be used for "anti-doping" and was needed to "increase internal interim blood tests."
However, according to an investigation by nrc.nl, the 75,000 Euro apparatus was used by Rabobank team doctor Geert Leinders and rider Michael Rasmussen to determine if blood doping by Rasmussen would be detected in anti-doping tests.
Rasmussen planned on receiving two blood bags simultaneously during the 2007 Tour de France, so during the 2007 Giro d'Italia, as an experiment, Rasmussen received two blood bags for the 12th stage and subsequent analysis by the Sysmex device showed that no abnormalities could be detected.
"I wanted to know what effect the two bags would have on my blood values," Rasmussen told nrc.nl.
Rasmussen completed the 2007 Giro in 48th place overall and during the 2007 Tour de France he took over the leader's yellow jersey after winning stage 8. The Dane would remain firmly in the overall lead through stage 16, which he also won, but that evening he would be forced out of the Tour and fired by his team, not for failing a doping test but for revelations regarding his whereabouts in June, 2007. Rasmussen was seen training in Italy, but had filed paperwork with the UCI stating he was in Mexico.
Rasmussen received a two-year ban and returned to racing in 2009. This past January, the Dane confessed to doping throughout the majority of his career, from 1998 until 2010, including the 2007 Tour where he passed his anti-doping tests.
De Rooij and Leinders did not respond to questions from nrc.nl regarding the Sysmex device.