After Team Rabobank announced last week that three riders of the squad, namely Denis Menchov, Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening, had testified in the doping investigation surrounding blood bank Humanplasma in Vienna, Austria, Cyclingnews asked Rabobank press officer Luuc Eisenga exactly what the management knew about the case and its riders' involvement.
"From what we know now, the involved riders haven't done anything that conflicts with our very strict zero tolerance policy," said Eisenga. "But if we had facts that contradicted the declarations the persons have made, we will act swiftly."
Three current riders of the team have testified before the authorities last month, and three other former riders, Thomas Dekker, Michael Boogerd and Michael Rasmussen, have been sent invitations to do so.
"We're in contact with the Austrian authorities," continued Eisenga. "From the first moment when they invited persons to be heard as witnesses, we announced our unconditional and complete cooperation."
Although the Austrian investigation continues, the questioning of Rabobank riders appears to have finished. However, the Dutch team was under the scrutiny of the Austrian authorities examining the wrongdoings of the blood bank, despite the attentiveness of team management in relation to anti-doping in the last two years.
"After the Rasmussen scandal in 2007, we did everything we could to create a completely doping-free environment," explained Eisenga. "We gave the riders the instruments to become better bike riders. We trained them, we coached them, and we watched them. It's extremely important that we do everything in our power to make sure that the riders compete in an ethical way.
"We can only hope that with the biological passport and the huge quantity of tests, the cheaters are caught and that those who are tempted to cheat feel threatened enough not do it. But there will always be people that think they can outsmart the rules - and then, the message is clear: we have a very strict anti-doping policy and those who don't like it or cannot live with it can look for another team," he continued.
While the prerogative 'innocent until proven guilty' obviously applied, the team kept a constant eye on the riders it was working with, explained Eisenga. "You can't wait until you get a confirmation anymore. You also have to be pro-active: looking into his whereabouts, ask the UCI to make sure all the values are okay... There are a lot of things a team has to do."
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