Editor's Note: FasterSkier.com is primarily a cross-country ski news source. However, we are providing coverage of the current doping issues at the Tour de France. As our readers know all to well, the use of banned substances is a significant issue in international cross-country ski racing. The events at the Tour provide insight into the current state of cheating in sport, and serve to remind us that this issue remains one of the largest challenges facing the international cross-country community.
Michael Rasmussen was removed from the Tour de France by his Rabobank team. Rasmussen, who has led the Tour for 10 days and looked to have victory well in hand, was sent home for violating team rules. The 33-year-old Danish rider told team officials that he was training in his wife's home country of Mexico earlier this summer when he missed two random drug tests. Rasmussen attributed the missed tests to an “administrative error.” However, it has now come to light that Rasmussen was in Italy during this time, possibly consulting with an unnamed doctor. As with Alexandre Vinokourov who tested positive for blood doping several days ago, Rasmussen has defended his innocence, claiming he is a victim of others' ill will.
It is important to note that Rasmussen has not failed a drug test to this point. With his removal, Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador takes over the yellow jersey with American teammate Levi Leipheimer moving up to third.
But the Tour has been seriously stained by a wave of positive tests and doping allegations, and it may not matter who wins. German rider Patrick Sinkewitz was the first to go with a failed training test revealed after he withdrew due to a crash. Vinokourov was sent home next, and just yesterday, Cofidis confirmed that Italian rider Cristian Moreni had tested positive for elevated testosterone levels. Moreni has waived his right to a B-sample test and has “accepted his wrongdoing.” The entire Cofidis team has withdrawn, joining Vinokourov's Astana team on the sidelines.
Despite strong riding performances, Rasmussen had fallen out of favor with fans and Tour organizers. He has been booed on the course and fuel was added to the fire when a former American mountain bike racer accused the Dane of attempting to trick him into smuggling doping materials into Europe. Tour director Cristian Prudhomme has stated that Rasmussen may not have been allowed to start if the missed tests were known of earlier.