Tour de France: Overall leader Rasmussen pulled from Tour

SI.com – More Sports – Overall leader Rasmussen pulled from Tour – Wednesday July 25, 2007 11:15PM
GOURETTE, France (AP) — 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 good news is, cycling is really trying to fix their doping problem.  The bad news is, this expulsion might not be due to doping:

“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.”

Innocent until proven guilty.  If the team wants to can him for lying to them, that’s their business, but there seems to be more than a little implication that he’s dirty but not caught.  And that’s bad.

Although Rasmussen has not tested positive, some fellow cyclists had openly voiced their skepticism about him.

Fans booed Rasmussen at the start of Wednesday’s stage, and mostly French teams staged a protest to express disgust at the doping scandals that have left cycling’s credibility in tatters. As the starter’s flag came down, dozens of protesting riders stood still as Rasmussen, ace sprinter Tom Boonen and several others began riding away.

Well, if Frenchmen are protesting you, you’re on the right track. The repercussions continue:

All this talk of doping prompted Jean-Francois Lamour, vice president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, to suggest the sport should be yanked from the Olympics. German public broadcasters have stopped airing the race, and one of Switzerland’s biggest newspapers stopped writing about it. The daily Tages Anzeiger said on its Web site Wednesday it will limit its coverage to results and doping stories.

I know next to nothing about sport and drug testing, but this has passed through to surreal…

Vinokourov positive for transfusion, Astana quits Tour

I like the Tour de France, generally like bike riding, but this was unexpected:

www.cyclingnews.com presents the 94th Tour de France
Cycling News Flash for July 25, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo
Vinokourov positive for transfusion, Astana quits Tour

The Tour de France was rocked by news that Astana’s battered team leader, Alexandre Vinokourov, tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion after Saturday’s time trial in Albi. L’Equipe reported on Tuesday afternoon that the Kazakh’s blood had shown evidence of a transfusion from another person with a compatible blood type in an analysis done in the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory. The positive test was later confirmed by the Astana team.

Upon receiving the news, the Astana team suspended Vinokourov and quit the Tour de France, according to a statement which read, “According to the ethical code of the Astana Cycling Team, Alexandre Vinokourov has been suspended of the team with immediate effect. The rider asked nevertheless [for] a B-analysis.”

So, how do you catch a same-type transfusion?  New antibodies?