Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chicken's Head Chopped Off

After many days of speculation about Michael "Chicken" Rasmussen's honesty in reporting to anti-doping officials, the Rabobank team has pulled him out of the Tour de France and fired him. Riders are required to report their schedules so that they can be found for out-of-competition testing, and Rasmussen apparently lied about his whereabouts. According to Rabobank, he said he was in Mexico when in fact he was in Italy. Although this reflects poorly on the Tour, I can't say I'm upset about Rasmussen being the guilty rider. I can't put my finger on it, but for some reason I never liked him.

While some are wondering what took Rabobank so long, I applaud them. It isn't easy to fire a guy while he is winning the biggest bike race in the world, so I don't blame them for waiting until they were absolutely certain. This is in sharp contrast to the decision to prevent a bunch of riders from starting last year's race because of doping suspicions (the Operacion Puerto affair). Some of those riders -- including new race leader Alberto Contador -- were later cleared of any involvement, long after they lost their chance to contest the 2006 Tour.

I feel sorry for Rabobank riders like Michael Boogerd and Denis Menchov, who busted their tails to keep Rasmussen in the yellow jersey only to see it come to naught. Also, I hope Contador, the exciting young Spaniard riding for Discovery Channel, is indeed clean. The sport needs young stars to replace the suspected or disgraced old guard. The repercussions from the past few days will be felt in pro cycling for months to come, in the form of sanctioned riders, dropped sponsorships, and even disbanded teams.


die_torschüsser said...

The "funny" thing is that Alberto Contador is also a part of Operation Puerto ... no more or no less than Basso and Ulrich ... but since he's Spanish it doesn't matter (he cut a deal with the Spanish authorities to go free ... thay wouldn't ruin their potential tour winner)

David Johnsen said...

From what I have read, Contador -- along with Allan Davis, Sergio Paulinho, and a couple of other former Liberty Seguros riders -- got implicated in Operacion Puerto just for being on Manolo Saiz's team, and they were cleared a few months later. According to this article among others, Dr. Fuentes said he never worked with Contador.

For all the criticism that Discovery got for signing Basso, I can't imagine they could have signed Contador (or Davis or Paulinho, for that matter) without controversy if they truly had been involved. Likewise, I don't believe ASO would have allowed Contador to start the 2007 Tour. ASO reiterated its position on Contador today -- that the UCI put him on the list prematurely when the scandal broke last year.

In short, I cannot find any evidence that supports your claim. If you are saying Contador is guilty and got special treatment just because you are cynical about the sport or you believe in conspiracy theories, I don't want to hear it.

David Johnsen said...

Just to follow up, a VeloNews article posted today pretty much confirms what I wrote above.