Rasmussen kicked out of TdF by own team
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Mihael Rasmussen was sensationally kicked out by his own Rabobank team.
The 33-year-old Dane had seemed to weather the storm after not making himself available for four doping tests in the past 18 months and had won Wednesday's stage to all but seal overall victory.
However, the team has learnt that Rasmussen lied to them over where and what he was up to during the month of June when he was in fact in Italy and not in Mexico as he had told them.
"He broke team rules," said a team spokesman. "It is not even sure if the team will carry on in the race," he added.
Rasmussen had won two stages during the Tour, though, his presence at the race was questioned by several officials and from the race organisers as well.
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Team manager Theo DeRooy has withdrawn the maillot jaune from the Tour de France. The team fired Rasmussen, who lied to them as to his true whereabouts when he missed his out of competition tests in June. "Wrongly reporting whereabouts is a flagrant violation of UCI rules and is unacceptable," read a statement by the Rabobank team.
DeRooy will not withdraw the entire team, but will allow the riders to choose to start the stage tomorrow.
Rasmussen's withdrawal comes only hours after Italian Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) was pulled from the Tour after he was confirmed as rider who tested positive for testosterone following stage 11 on July 19.
Just one day ago, Alexandre Vinoukourov tested positive for a blood transfusion. In response, his entire Astana team did not start stage 16 Wednesday.
Late last week, Danish federation officials announced that Rasmussen had been ejected from that country's national squad and would not be representing Denmark at the world championships or at next year's Olympic Games.
To add insult to injury, Rasmussen was also forced to fend off charges that he had attempted to trick a friend into transporting a cutting-edge hemoglobin replacement from the U.S. to Italy in 2002.
Ultimately, it was the missed-tests issue that finally brought the controversial Tour leader to his knees. Rabobank, sponsored by a leading Dutch bank, had been under increasing pressure since Rasmussen admitted to making an "administrative error" by missing random doping controls by the UCI on March 24, 2006, and June 28, 2007.
Rabobank director Theo de Rooy said the decision to pull Rasmussen - and to fire him - came down to a matter of trust.
Rasmussen waved away the whereabouts reporting issues as a minor problem that many riders go through. Faced with the missed tests, he offered an apology, but again characterized it as an "administrative error." When first confronted with the Richards accusation, he replied only, "I cannot confirm any of that. I know his name, yes," before quickly exiting the press conference.
At his rest day press conference, reporters appeared to catch Rasmussen out in at least one other gray area: Rasmussen said that he'd spoken with UCI anti-doping coordinator Anne Gripper in the spring of 2006 about his missing whereabouts forms and she cleared him, but Gripper didn't join the governing body until that fall.
Finally, during the protest at the start of Wednesday's 16th Stage, riders from several French teams appeared to surround Rasmussen. No words were exchanged, but when Christophe Moreau was asked whether Rasmussen should withdraw from the race, he replied, "The question can be asked." Instead, Rasmussen went on to win the stage and solidify his race lead over second-placed Alberto Contador and third-place rider Cadel Evans.
For race directors, the news of Rasmussen's departure was welcome. "We did all we could do to get rid of him," said Tour director Christian Prudhomme. "I at the very least do not feel that I have been dishonored," despite the third high-profile exit from the race and the news on Wednesday that a third rider, Cofidis' Cristian Moreni, had tested positive.