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Orica, Freire respond to Rasmussen doping claims

Three-time world champion threatens to sue Rasmussen after the former yellow jersey claims 100 percent of 2007 Rabobank Tour team doped

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First it was Ryder Hesjedal, now it’s the entire Rabobank team circa 2007. Michael Rasmussen’s soon-to-be-released tell-all book is sending shockwaves through the peloton and former world champion Oscar Freire has threatened to sue his Danish former teammate.

Last week, Rasmussen started to promote his book in Denmark with excerpts published in Danish newspapers, and alleged that he helped turn mountain bikers including Hesjedal onto illicit doping practices. That quickly led to a chain of events that prompted 2012 Giro d’Italia champion Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) to admit he doped early in his career.

In an interview with Danish public television to promote his book, Yellow Jersey, Rasmussen has claimed that the entire lineup during the scandal-ridden 2007 Tour de France was on the juice.

In the interview, Rasmussen alleged that “100 percent” his Rabobank teammates were taking some sort of banned substances, though he did not specify which products for each rider.

That was the same year Rasmussen was leading the Tour when team management kicked him out of the race after a scandal erupted over the Dane’s whereabouts in the weeks and months ahead of the race’s start.

Those claims have quickly rebounded around the peloton.

One of Rasmussen’s teammates on that 2007 Tour was three-time world champion Freire. The Spanish rider retired last year and was never implicated in doping scandals during his career.

On Monday, Freire shot back at the accusations, telling Spanish daily AS that he has contacted Rasmussen personally about the claims.

“I have demanded that he apologize, and that he does so publicly, because if he doesn’t, I will have to think about suing him,” Freire told AS. “He told me that he never said my name specifically, but the reality is that it’s all over the media.”

Another former Rabobank teammate, Pieter Weening, is now being called to the carpet by his current team, Orica-GreenEdge. Weening was questioned about his past last December by anti-doping expert Nicki Vance in the wake of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation that led to sport director Matthew White being temporarily suspended from the team.

Last year, White admitted that he used doping products during part of his racing career, leading him to be fired from his job as coach of the Australian national team as well as a temporary ban from his post at the UCI ProTeam.

White returned to the fold mid-season in 2013, while other riders and staff were questioned during an internal team investigation. Weening, who has signed a contract extension through 2015, previously told team officials he had nothing to hide from earlier in his career.

Overnight in Australia, Orica released the following statement:

We have been made aware of certain allegations put forward regarding Pieter Weening. We have asked Pieter to full re-confirm his legally binding statement to the team regarding his career and these issues before and after joining the team, specifically with regards to the current situation. The team is also aware that Pieter has made himself fully available to any formal inquiry by the Dutch federation, and will follow up when these have been concluded, should there be a relevant reason to.

Others on the team that year included Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd, Bram de Groot, Grischa Niermann, and Juan Antonio Flecha, all now retired. Thomas Dekker would later serve a two-year ban for EPO and now races for Garmin-Sharp.

Working as team doctor that year was Dr. Geert Leinders, who worked for Sky between 2010 and 2012 before the British outfit dismissed him following reports of his links to alleged doping practices within the Dutch team.

In January this year, Rasmussen, who served a two-year ban from 2007-2009, admitted that he used a variety of doping products, including EPO, human growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, DHEA, cortisone, steroids, and underwent blood doping.