Michael Rasmussen deliberately misled the UCI regarding his whereabouts prior to the Tour de France, and should not have been allowed to start the Tour, an independent inquiry decided. The 48 page report compiled by an independent committee set up by Rabobank was released on Monday, Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer breaks down the facts.
33 year-old Michael Rasmussen was just days away from the pinnacle of his career on July 25, 2007. He had won stage 16 of the Tour – the final mountain stage – and was more than three minutes ahead of his nearest competitor, Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), in the overall classification with just one remaining decisive stage. His lead was nearly insurmountable, and Rabobank was well on its way to the team's first Tour de France victory. Yet his team took the unprecedented step of firing the rider that very evening and secreting him out of France before the story broke.
What followed was a month long inquiry into Rasmussen's story – one that revealed a web of deceit, resulting in missed out of competition doping controls, the escalation of tensions between the Tour de France organisers and the UCI and the end of a respected director's career with the Rabobank team.
Rasmussen claimed that the team knew his whereabouts and had even provided him with travel arrangements for his trip to Italy and France in June and was disputing being sacked, so team sponsor Rabobank hired an independent committee headed by Peter Vogelzang, a former chief of the Utrecht Police and head of the 2004 Dutch Olympic team, to get the facts in the case. The 48-page report released Monday at a press conference at Utrecht, Holland, spreads the blame amongst Rasmussen and Team Rabobank, as well as the UCI.
The Vogelzang committee reported that Rasmussen "deliberately provided incorrect whereabouts information on multiple occasions and could therefore deliberately not be tested for a given period. When an athlete is deliberately un-locatable for doping testing organisations during a specific period before the Tour de France, and does not provide a credible explanation, this creates a strong suspicion that he may be using substances from the forbidden doping list." The report clarified, "This does not, however, prove that the related athlete has actually used doping."
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