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UPDATED: Sponsor responds; Medical staff said to have overseen riders' activities; Boogerd claimed as HumanPlasma client
Team Rabobank tolerated the use of doping up until at least 2007, according to a Dutch newspaper. The riders could select their own products, but the team medical staff made sure that they did not hurt their health, the Volkskrant newspaper claimed. At least three former riders, including Michael Boogerd, were also said to have been involved in the HumanPlasma blood doping ring, as well.
Sponsor Rabobank said that it would not investigate the story, saying that there had been an investigation earlier. “Since 2007 there is a new board of directors and new leadership,” a spokesman said. He also pointed out, “We want to stress that within the team there is a zero tolerance policy.”
The team has not made a statement on the matter.
According to the Volkskrant, Theo de Rooy who was team manager from 2003 to 2007, did not deny that there was doping on the team. “If it happened, it was a deliberate decision by the medical staff,” he said, but claimed not to know of the HumanPlasma involvement.
De Rooy, who refered to the whole matter as “medical care” rather than doping, indicated that the efforts were to some extent overseen by someone within the team structure. "If you have a number of knowledgeable people who pick up the right signals from the riders, you can brake and steer them."
The former manager said that the team took no “unreasonable risks” in the matter. "But when it comes to medical care, you need to find the limit. You can't say you risk your life (in dangerous descents, for example, ed.), but when it comes to medical care, it does not matter. Then you're not an athlete? For me it has always been: the health and well being of the rider in the short and long term.”
De Rooy said it was the responsibility of each rider “to determine how far he would go in the medical field”, the newspaper reported. The team management did not encourage or pay for doping, and was not officially allowed. .
He also acknowledged that he had disciplined riders who wanted to organize their own medical care outside the team structure. “Michael Rasmussen was not the first, for that matter. I had to take disciplinary action once before. By not using riders in races, for example.”
Rasmussen was removed from the Tour de France after the 16th stage, whilst leading the race, and fired by Rabobank, for having lied about his whereabouts in the time leading up to the Tour. De Rooy left the team shortly thereafter.
At least three Rabobank riders were involved with the Humanplasma blood bank in Vienna, the story claimed. Stefan Matschiner, who was the power behind the blood doping scheme, claimed that Michael Boogerd was one of them.
The newspaper said that 37 athletes from various disciplines used the transfusion services, and that Matschiner made appointments for them, maintained the contact with them and accompanied all but one of them to their appointments. All but one of the athletes, at any rate. Matschiner claimed that Boogerd brought with him the blood of another unnamed Dutch cyclist.
Boogerd denied any involvement. “I deny that I have been there,” he said.
Matschiner was the manager and supplier for Bernhard Kohl, who whilst riding for Gerolsteiner, won the mountains competition and finished third in the Tour de France in 2008. He subsequently tested positive for EPO-CERA and was suspended. Kohl made a full confession.