Sørensen, Leinders, Cassani also under fire
With the release of his auto-biography imminent, Michael Rasmussen has come out in an interview on Danish public broadcaster DR claiming that the entire Rabobank team at the 2007 Tour de France used doping products. He also delved into his 2007 Tour de France expulsion, how Rolf Sørenson introduced him to cortisone use and how he even approached his father for a blood donation so that he could use it for blood doping purposes. Additionally, Rasmussen explained his motivations behind his recent revelations that have already enmeshed Ryder Hesjedal, with many more now in the cross hairs.
The Rabobank team for the 2007 Tour de France consisted of Rasmussen, Dennis Menchov, Michael Boogerd, Bram de Groot, Thomas Dekker, Juan Antonio Flecha, Oscar Freire, Grischa Niermann and Pieter Weening with Rasmussen claiming each rider was given performance enhancing drugs by the team.
"Within the Rabobank team: 100% [used doping products]. Not everyone took the same products, but all riders were on some form of doping provided by the team," Rasmussen told dr.dk.
The implication that the products were provided by the team is a point of interest given Rabobank's team doctor for the 2007 Tour was Dr Geert Leinders, the same doctor that was hired by Team Sky in 2010 but subsequently let go at the end of last year as doping rumours involving the Rabobank team began to circulate.
Rasmussen went on to reveal that he even approached his father Finn, on the advice of Dr Leinders, asking him to donate blood so that he could inject it. Rasmussen said that Dr Leinders explained he had done so previously with two brothers and if the blood matched that "it was like mixing water with water."
"It felt like stepping over the line … It was not easy," Rasmussen explained. "But they [Rasmussen's parents] were aware I took medicine to race faster."
"The blood samples were analysed and we discovered they were not compatible, it [the blood doping] never took place."
The 2007 Tour
The 2007 Tour de France was thrown into chaos when Rasmussen was fired by Rabobank after Stage 16 when rumours about his whereabouts in the lead-up to the race became overwhelming. Rasmussen now believes that a simple phone call to Italian commentator David Cassani –the man who spotted Rasmussen in Italy at the time when the 'chicken' claimed to be in Mexico- would have prevented his demise.
"If I had not met Cassani, I would have won the Tour de France - that's for sure," Rasmussen told politiken.dk. "I am also annoyed about the fact that if I had just called him and said: 'Shut up'. He never would have said a word.
"He [Cassani] has been a professional for 15 years, so he knows the environment from the inside. And if I had asked him to keep quiet, well, he would have done it. He has even told me."
Another of the riders accused by Rasmussen of having used doping products is former Danish pro cyclist Rolf Sørensen. Last week Rasmussen explained how he introduced Ryder Hesjedal to using doping products, and Rasmussen claims that Sørensen did the same for him in the days leading up to the 2001 World Championships.
"Two days before the race Rolf went into the hotel fridge, above the mini bar, and then he pulled a small box out with that cortisone preparation in," Rasmussen said. "I asked what it was and he said it was synachthen. And then he asked if I'd like some of it.
"I asked 'how does it work, what is it good against?'" Rasmussen then added that Sørensen explained the benefits and the appropriate dosage to him.
Sørensen had previously admitted to using doping products, but likened himself to more of a 'party smoker,' claiming he was not a major perpetrator.
"I was a bit offended," said Rasmussen in response. "Subsequently, I think it was very funny that he considered himself a party smoker. The rest of us might have rather seen him as a chain smoker."
With Rasmussen's reliability and his own motivations also under question, he cited his own desire to run a team within a clean peloton as his main incentive for coming forward.
"When I lied, people criticized me. When riders admit, people criticize them for not telling everything. Now I tell everything," he explained. "Right now, I consider myself to be one of the most trustworthy people in cycling because now I can take the garbage out once and for all.
"And I still have the ambition to operate a team in the future. The last thing I want is to run it under the conditions that I have ridden under. I would not be able to live with running a team like Rabo."
Rasmussen has already had a possible lengthy suspension reduced to two years owing to his cooperation with Anti-Doping Denmark and the Danish Sports Federation. As part of his coming clean Rasmussen also strongly believes that a truth and reconciliation process is essential otherwise "we will continue to encounter many individual cases that will repeatedly embarrass the sport."
Rasmussen also cited an obsessive "will to win" combined with fans wanting extreme feats from their sporting heroes, as well as those heroes being willing to take extreme action –including taking doping products- as part of the ongoing doping dilemma. Most importantly for Rasmussen the solution is a systemic one, it is "not about exposing individuals as being the black sheep."
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