Panel questions team's choice to allow Dane in Tour
The committee empaneled to review Michael Rasmussen’sfiring and ejection from this summer’s Tour de France issued a report Mondaysupporting the actions of Rabobank team officials, but questioning theirdecision to allow the Danish rider to start the race in the first place.
After a three-month review, the Vogelzang committee of inquiry – organizedby the team’s sponsor, the Dutch financial firm Rabobank – concluded that team officials acted properly when they firedRasmussen at the height of the Tour, while he was wearing the yellow jersey.“The report is critical and extremely thorough,” said Piet van Schijndel,the Rabobank executive board member in charge of the firm’s cycling sponsorship.“It clearly states that the board of directors of Rabo Cycling Teams rightlydecided to remove Rasmussen from the Tour de France.”Rasmussen was fired on July 25 after the team concluded that he hadlied concerning his whereabouts when UCI and Danish cycling federationofficials had been unable to locate the rider for out-of-competition testing.Rasmussen said he was in Mexico at the time, but Italian TV journalistDavide Cassani, a former professional cyclist, testified that he had seenthe Danish climbing star in Italy.That discrepancy was confirmedby Rasmussen himself last week when he conceded that he had actuallybeen in Italy, but contended that Rabobank officials knew that he had liedfor personal reasons about being in Mexico in June when anti-doping controllerscouldn’t find him.”I would like to apologize to the public and the UCI for giving outfalse information. I did this for personal and marital reasons alone, andin consideration of my family, I will not elaborate further on this matter,”Rasmussen said. “In retrospect, there are a lot of things I would donedifferently.”While Rasmussen might have done things differently, the Vogelzang committeeconcluded that the team acted properly when they fired the rider, who wasall but assured victory in the Tour at the time of his dismissal.But the report was critical of the team’s management of “ethical matters”in connection with the Rasmussen case.The report contends that the team’s board actually knew of Rasmussen’smissed tests and his travel plans, and “made an error of judgement” bynot reporting those facts to the team’s sponsor.“It is patently obvious from the information known now that Rasmussenshould not have been allowed to start in the Tour de France,” the reportnoted.Following the Rasmussen firing, Rabobank manager Theo de Rooy resignedhis position on the team after “consultation with Rabobank.”The report recommends permanent management changes on the team as aresult of the scandal.“The interim manager … has already begun to implement changes to theoperations together with the board of directors in anticipation of thepublication of this report,” the committee concluded. “The aim is for theboard of directors to provide a clear overview of the changes that havebeen made to the operations as a result of this report by the end of thisyear. This will include modifications to matters such as the approach todealing with whereabouts and changes to the way the medical supervisionis organized.”Should he decide to return to racing, Rasmussen faces an uphill battle,with no major teams expressing an interest in his services. A report issuedthis fall notes that while Rasmussen did not formally test positive fordrugs during the Tour, the head of France’s Anti-Doping Agency said thatthe rider had a “non-negative“Tour after samples showed signs of Dynepo, a new varient of EPO for whichthere is not yet a certified detection method.Doping allegations have dogged Rasmussen for several years. Thissummer a former associate allegedthat the one-time world mountain bike champion had tried to trick him intocarrying illegal doping products to Europe in 2002.