Team Ousts Race Leader Rasmussen from Tour De France

From ESPN.

GOURETTE, France -- One of its biggest stars is already gone, and now so is the leader of the Tour de France.

Michael Rasmussen was removed from the race by his Rabobank team after winning Wednesday's stage, a day after Alexandre Vinokourov and his team withdrew when the star cyclist tested positive for a banned blood transfusion.

"Michael Rasmussen has been sent home for violating [the team's] internal rules," Rabobank spokesman Jacob Bergsma told The Associated Press by phone.

The expulsion, which Bergsma said was ordered by the Dutch team's sponsor, was linked to "incorrect" information that Rasmussen gave to the team's sports director over his whereabouts last month. Rasmussen missed random drug tests May 8 and June 28, saying he was in Mexico. But a former rider, Davide Cassani, told Denmark's Danmarks Radio on Wednesday that he had seen Rasmussen in Italy in mid-June.

"Of course I'm clean," Rasmussen said, after a doping test following Wednesday's stage win. "Like I said, I've been tested 17 times now in less than two weeks. Both the peloton and the public, they're just taking their frustration out on me now. I mean, all I can say is that by now I had my test number 17 on this Tour, and all of those have come back negative. I don't feel I can do anymore than that."

Tour organizers said Tuesday they would have stopped Rasmussen from taking part in the race had they known about the missed tests before the July 7 start.

"We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

What a shock it is! Taken out by his own team given that he is so close to winning the Tour. (It does comes as a surprise to see him in the lead)

Hopefully, cycling sports will start to get better and be rid of all these doping news in the headlines.

And did Floyd Landis doped?

Jul 29, Contador sealed his first Tour win after narrowly holding a 23-second overall lead while his teammate Leipheimer won the 35-mile 19th stage time trial. ESPN.

Related: Tour's openness is its greatest strength, and weakness.

Of course, Rasmussen's demise underscores the fact that cycling is open only in a superficial sense. Its doping culture is a dense web of secrets, and riders have become so accustomed to it that obfuscating is the norm, fibbing is habit and cheating is common currency.

There is still a lot going on underneath the surface in the most open professional sport on the planet. The people who want to change cycling for the better are still cracking the codes and trying to see through the tinted windows on the big team buses.

If doping scandals make you doubt that the physical feats you see in a bike race are real, look again. Look at the whole sport. It's convulsing in a very real, human, imperfect way. Things may get worse before they get better, though it's hard to imagine how much worse they could be than they were this week at the Tour de France.

And more from ESPN

Tour de France -- Doping timeline.

Pounding the pedals with Floyd Landis.

Klöden considers retirement (Velonews) He raised the possibility of riders' careers being sacrificed in the current dispute between Tour organizers ASO and the UCI.

Why are cyclists at the Tour de France still doping? - By Nathaniel Vinton - Slate

Lance Armstrong is impressed by Contador (

2007, August 10,

Tour winner Contador says he's always competed clean.

Discovery team to cease operations at season's end.

2007, September 20,

Landis stripped of Tour title for doping, unsure on appeal. The vote was 2-1 to uphold the results. The 84-page ruling, handed down nearly four months after a bizarre and bitterly fought hearing, leaves the American with one final way to possibly salvage his 2006 title -- an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He has a month to file an appeal.


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