By Andrew Hood
In a year of the comeback, perhaps it’s inevitable that Michael Rasmussen will join the band of riders pedaling back into the fray.
The Danish climbing specialist – who was ignominiously ejected from the 2007 Tour de France just days from what appeared to be a likely overall victory and later fired by his Rabobank team – says he’s hoping to race in this year’s Vuelta a España if he can find a team willing to sign him.
Speaking to the Danish newspaper Politiken, Rasmussen is currently serving a two-year ban for uncertainty about his whereabouts in the weeks leading to the start of the 2007 Tour.
“I am working with the idea of coming back and everything is going well. I am consistently training, but I couldn’t return and win the next day,” Rasmussen said. “It all depends on who wants to have me and where I want to be employed. It doesn’t make sense for me to sign with an Italian team if I want to race the Vuelta. My main goal is still to race the grand tours and we’ll see if I can find a suitable employer. I am confident.”
Rasmussen is still challenging his ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which accepted the appeal six months ago. Officials told Politiken that the case is “complicated,” but suggested a ruling could come in the next three to four weeks.
If he loses his appeal, Rasmussen would be cleared to race July 26 – two years from the date he was excluded from the 2007 Tour de France while wearing the yellow jersey.
Rasmussen found himself in the center of a media firestorm about questions of his whereabouts and his availability for out-of-competition tests in the weeks ahead of the 2007 Tour.
Rasmussen infamously said he was training in Mexico when it was later proven he was in France and Italy instead, something Rasmussen insists was cleared with his Rabobank team.
In the wake of the scandal, Rabobank fired Rasmussen and former team manager Theo de Rooij was forced to leave the Dutch team.
Officials from the UCI later imposed a two-year ban on Rasmussen.
While he admits he made “errors,” Rasmussen insists there is a good reason behind the fact that he never tested positive for banned, performance-enhancing substances; namely that he never took them.
“There’s no secret that I made a mistake,” he continued. “I admitted that a long time ago, but I think there is a huge leap from having given false information about place of residence to a positive doping test, which I never delivered.”
The UCI and other anti-doping officials obviously disagree.