Rasmussen has no case to answer, says manager

Humanplasma scandal builds steam

A manager for cyclist Michael Rasmussen, excluded from the 2007 Tour de France while in the leader's yellow jersey, claims the Dane has no links to a laboratory which has become the focus of a doping probe.

A report from German television channel ARD on Tuesday claimed that Rasmussen was among several cyclists to have stored their blood at a Vienna laboratory for later use in boosting their performances. The report claimed that the main clients of the laboratory, Humanplasma, were biathletes and cross country skiers.

Rasmussen became a pariah at the 2007 Tour de France, during which he fought suspicions of doping after it was revealed he has missed several random doping tests in the 18 months prior to the race. He was later sacked by his Rabobank team.

His manager, Mads Rasmussen, refuted the accusations made in the report.

"It's not at all professional when certain media report these kind of unfounded allegations, as ARD have," Mads Rasmussen said in a statement. "Michael Rasmussen has never been found guilty of doping. And each time there's a story linking him to doping it always comes to nothing."

The father of Rasmussen, Finn Rasmussen, told AFP his son was "not in Denmark, and he has decided to no longer speak to the press."

Michael Rasmussen was excluded from the Tour de France on July 25 by Rabobank while wearing the overall leader's jersey for lying about his whereabouts the previous month when he was being sought out for doping tests.

ARD's report on the laboratory has prompted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president, Thomas Bach, to demand urgent clarification from the Austrian authorities. Bach, the president of the German Olympic Committee, has held talks with IOC chief Jacques Rogge before sending a letter sent to Austria's secretary for sport Reinhold Lopatka.

"We need to know the facts," Bach said in the letter. "The IOC wants to know the names of the athletes and if they are linked in any way to the investigations concerning this laboratory. The German Olympic Committee also wants to know the names of any German athletes who may be involved."

According to ARD, 30 top sports people are involved with the laboratory, of which, according to their report, two thirds are German and include several biathletes and cross country skiers.

© AFP 2007

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