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.