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Austrian doping investigators talk to Rabobank; Menchov distances himself

By Andrew Hood

Giro d’Italia leader Denis Menchov on Wednesday distanced himself from an alleged blood doping ring operated in Vienna, Austria, but officials from Rabobank team said Austrian authorities have recently approached the team.
 
“The team has been approached by Austrian justice officials,” Rabobank team spokesman Luuc Eisinga told VeloNews on Wednesday. ‘We have replied that we will fully cooperate.”
 
Eisinga would not confirm when Austrian authorities approached the team, but Austrian officials are turning up the heat in an investigation involving a Vienna-based blood bank called Humanplasma that allegedly involves several skiers and cyclists.
 
“We have no information that would make us believe that anyone from Rabobank is involved,” Eisinga said. “The team has nothing to hide.”
 
Journalists queried Menchov during his post-stage press conference Wednesday after he defended his maglia rosa on the mountaintop finish to Blockhaus.
 
“That’s a curious question,” said a visibly nervous Menchov. “This story isn’t new to me. I heard all about it last year. I gave explanations last year. I have nothing to do with it. I don’t want to have to speak about it again and give the same explanations. We’re in the race now. I’d rather speak about the Giro.”

Last year, Menchov was asked about a German television report — later retracted by the station — that claimed to tie him and five other Rabobank riders to a doping ring. Menchov strongly denied the report at the time.
 
On Wednesday, Menchov wouldn’t directly answer a follow-up question on whether Austrian authorities have contacted him, but he did say he would cooperate.
 
“It could be, I don’t have any problem with it,” he said. “If someone wants to get some information from me, I have no problem to give it.”
 
Disgraced Austrian rider Bernhard Kohl — who tested positive for the banned blood booster CERA en route to winning the best climber’s jersey and finishing third in the Tour de France last year — said on German television Monday that he and other riders worked with Humanplasma.
 
In March officials made a series of arrests, including former Austrian Nordic skiing coach Walter Mayer and cyclist Christof Kerschbaum.