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By Andrew Hood
The new year is just days old and cycling is already looking head-on at another potentially explosive doping story.
The German public television station ARD reported Tuesday that Michael Rasmussen, along with his former Rabobank teammates Denis Menchov and the now-retired Michael Boogerd, were among 30 elite athletes said to have used an Austrian-based laboratory for banned blood-doping practices.
ARD also alleged that biathletes and Nordic skiers used the Humanplasma lab, which has facilities in Vienna.
Officials from that office refused to comment when contacted by VeloNews late Tuesday and said a lawyer would be addressing questions Wednesday. However, German biathlon officials were quick to deny the allegations, as were Boogerd, retired Austrian pro George Totschnig and interim Rabobank manager Henri van der Aat.
“There are a lot of rumors in the world of cycling. People are throwing mud at each other and the Germans are jumping to conclusions about doping without proof,” said van der Aat. “What we do know are the blood monitoring tests we’ve done with the team. We’ve looked at all of them and there’s nothing suspicious. Unless there’s an official inquiry, we’re not going to investigate this story.”
Van der Aat said he was trying to reach Menchov, who was out on his bike during a team training camp in Spain. But Boogerd, who retired at the end of the 2007 season, told Van der Aat that he had “nothing to do with all this."
"I’ve never had a hint of scandal in my entire career. What the hell is this?” he added.
Totschnig, meanwhile, told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard: “These allegations are nothing new. I don’t know how my name can have come up. Now I have to see what comes out of this. I hope I’ll get more details.”
Last fall, outgoing WADA president Dick Pound alerted Austrian officials about what he said were suspicious activities at the lab. The lab was the subject of two inquiries this fall, one by prosecutors in Vienna and another by Austria’s ministry of interior at the request of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It’s not clear whether those inquiries resulted in any official action.
—AFP contributed to this report