By Andrew Hood
In yet another bizarre twist of just where Michael Rasmussen was in the weeks and days before the start of the 2007 Tour de France, the Danish climbing specialist now says he never went to Mexico as he previously insisted and says that his Rabobank team knew about it all along.
Rabobank fired Rasmussen while wearing the yellow jersey just four days shy of a likely Tour victory over alleged discrepancies in reports of his whereabouts during critical, pre-Tour testing windows for surprise anti-doping controls.
“First of all, I would like to clearly state that I was not in Mexico in June. I have therefore misinformed both the UCI and the public,” Rasmussen said during a press conference Thursday in Denmark. “It is, however, important for me to stress that at no point did I lie to the team Rabobank.”
Rasmussen said he lied for personal reasons about being in Mexico in June when anti-doping controllers couldn’t find him in Europe.
“I would like to apologize to the public and the UCI for giving out false information. I did this for personal and marital reasons alone, and in consideration of my family, I will not elaborate further on this matter,” Rasmussen said. “In retrospect, there are a lot of things I would have done differently.”
He admitted that he was training in Italy and France with full knowledge and support of Rabobank team officials.
He said former team manager Theo de Rooy and current sport director Erik Breukink knew where he was.
Instead of training in Mexico as he previously stated, Rasmussen said he was in fact in Italy between June 4-19. He also confirmed that he met Italian TV journalist Davide Cassani, an admission that helped auger his hasty removal when it was revealed amidst the media firestorm in July.
From June 20-23, he traveled to the Alps and was in the Pyrenees from June 25 with Rabobank teammate Denis Mechov and a team soigneur. He also said he met personally with Breukink on June 7 in Bergamo, Italy.
Thursday’s declarations came ahead of a planned release Monday of an internal investigation about the Rasmussen affair conducted by Rabobank officials. The Dutch team hired a private consultant this summer to review team policies following the disastrous expulsion of Rasmussen. De Rooy stepped down as team manager, but Breukink continues as sport director.
Rasmussen was peeved that he couldn’t read the report before its planned release Monday and decided to come forward Thursday with his version of events.
His charges that team officials knew where he was could have important repercussions within the Rabobank team, but did little to bolster public confidence in the blond climbing specialist.
“I am hoping this will help me get some credibility back and that I will be able to get back on the bike and find a team for next year,” he said. “I cannot make any deals with anyone because I don’t know how the UCI will deal with this.”
So far, few teams seem willing to bet on the controversial legacy that would accompany any Rasmussen contract, but that could quickly change.
Rasmussen’s decision last summer to play coy about his whereabouts before the start of the Tour and in his inability to clearly explain it to the media proved devastating for the Danish climbing specialist.
The media hounded him for days as the story threatened to overwhelm the race before Rabobank finally succumbed to pressure and fired him following his victory in the final decisive climbing stage at the Aubisque.
After being removed from the Tour, Rasmussen lost what would have been millions of dollars in prize money, criterium appearances, product endorsements and contract bonuses.
On Thursday, Rasmussen said the team illegally fired him, suggesting that Rasmussen will seek damages from the team.
“It is therefore completely absurd that Rabobank took me out of the Tour de France claiming that I had mislead them,” Rasmussen said. “You cannot mislead people who have known the truth all along.”
Rasmussen also denied reports that he has taken banned doping substances during his career. Earlier this year, the French daily L’Equipe reported that Rasmussen tested positive for a new form of the banned blood-booster EPO.
“I’ve never taken EPO or Dynepo or other forbidden drugs. (The UCI) have confirmed that there is no Dynepo case and there will be no cases from the Tour against me,” Rasmussen said.
It will be interesting to see how Rabobank officials react to the news. A press conference is scheduled for Monday.Blood indicators released by Rasmussen:
|30.06.2005||Tour de France||39.8||14.0|
|29.06.2006||Tour de France||40.4||13.7|
|05.07.2007||Tour de France||40.3||13.3|
Source: UCI and various laboratories and hospitals