Tour de France '07 – The Rasmussen Doping Saga To Date

Jul 20 2007

So, nothing against Tom Boonen, but his second win of the Tour was probably the least significant development in the cycling world today. I suppose the best place to begin relating the latest developments is last night, when the Danish Cycling Federation officially dumped Michael Rasmussen (who just happens to be leading the biggest race in the world at the moment) from the Danish National Team roster. Reason: three missed dope tests.

This morning, Christian Prudhomme held an overpacked press conference at which he expressed consternation – not with Rasmussen, mind you, but with Denmark, for releasing this information mid-Tour, while the rider in question was in the yellow jersey. And while that blame deflection didn’t send the strongest signal that the Tour de France organizers were concerned with a clean race, it certainly brought up a valid point – the announcement’s timing seemed custom designed to hurt the Tour.

So the Danes fired back earlier today, saying they were only responding to previous comments made by Rasmussen that the public could “trust him”, and that there were no reasons to doubt his integrity. In response to the renewed allegations, The Chicken (as Rasmussen is often called) revised his first, unconvincing response, from an admission of a single received warning, to a complete that disclosure that, yes he had been warned about saying he’d be in Italy while visiting Mexico three times.

And if that in itself weren’t troubling enough (three missed tests in 18 months = 1 positive result), VeloNews up and dropped the big one this afternoon. Back in 2002, a cross-country racer and former friend of Rasmussen’s named Whitney Richards was asked to bring some “shoes” to Italy for the future maillot jaune. While packing, he discovered the shoebox was full of Hemopure, and that Rasmussen, judging from his reaction, totally overpaid for it.

Richards apparently tried to get word out the Chicken’s allegedly ill-begotten wings earlier, but didn’t want himself or the former World MTB champ mentioned by name. That, plus the fact that Velonews Editor Charles Pelkey has personally confirmed Richards received “not a penny” for his story, nor even “a free subscription to Velonews,” puts a serious dent in the accused doper’s defense du jour.

Before this news broke, the big question on everyone’s mind was “Will Rasmussen still be in yellow after tomorrow’s TT?” Now I think the question is: “will he even be at the start?”

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