By Katharina Schulz
Danish broadcasting company DR Sporten and newspaper Jyllands-Posten have reported that Michael Rasmussen had slightly irregular blood profiles in 2002 when he was still with Team CSC. He had been scheduled to take part in the Giro della Provincia di Lucca but he was sent home by DS Johnny Weltz after an internal blood test showed irregularities. Back then, Rasmussen told Danish news agency Ritzau that his withdrawal was due to stomach troubles and a fever.
CSC doctor Piet De Moor told DR Sporten that CSC "had no official test, but there were misgivings about some things, which didn't seem to be in order. I don't want to be nailed down to any figures, that's not the point. I only know that it [the hematocrit level] was not over 50, but that it was close to 50, which also was suspicious for me. That's why Michael was sent home," De Moor said.
CSC's press officer Brian Nygaard confirmed the information. "There were some peaks in his blood levels," he stated to DR Sporten. "We're talking about levels that could have been caused by an illness, by a health problem, or something else. I don't want to drag Michael Rasmussen's name through the mud but I do confirm this piece of information. Today, I think that there was no crystal clear doping case to be taken up against him back then."
Bjarne Riis was immediately informed about the matter, and when the team confronted Rasmussen with the results, he showed them test results from the same period that were normal. However, this incident seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, and even though Riis and Rasmussen had agreed on a new two-year contract after Rasmussen won the queen stage in the Vuelta a Burgos, the former mountain-biker and the team went separate ways.
"The relationship [between Rasmussen and Team CSC] had been really tense in the run-up to this, and there was really no room for any kind of further differences or misunderstandings," Nygaard explained to DR Sporten. "Based on the facts we had we decided – and Michael totally agreed – to end our relationship. The relationship built on mutual trust that should have been there between Michael and us simply wasn't there any longer. And therefore there was no basis for a new contract with Michael," Nygaard confirmed. Apparently, Rasmussen also had a very good offer from Rabobank, who were also informed about the test results by Team CSC.
The team also told Jesper Worre, then and now head of the Danish Cycling Union DCU. "I can remember Bjarne Riis coming to me at some point, telling me that they would stop working with Michael and we were asked to keep an eye on him. This episode has been one part of the picture we have been making ourselves of him," Worre told Jyllands-Posten.
"We have been alert since then, but it's a constant balancing act, and we had no reason not to nominate him for the Olympics in 2004 based on the tests that were taken before the games. We also chose to have faith in the tests that Rabobank took in Rasmussen's case. This has proven not to be good enough, when for example in June we had no real insight as to where he was."
Michael Rasmussen himself chose not to comment on the matter either to Jyllands-Posten or DR Sporten.