For a guy reputed for his almost maniacal attention to detail, the least you can say about Michael Rasmussen is that his memory leaves a lot to be desired.
First Rasmussen forgets to inform the UCI of his whereabouts for out of competition dope testing. Then, today, in the press conference arranged to excuse and explain his mistake, the Dane's powers of recollection fail him again.
The setting was Pau's Palais Beaumont, the time around half-past two. Rasmussen had just explained that, yes, he missed the April 1st deadline for mailing details of his whereabouts in the second quarter of 2006, but that it was okay, because he'd contacted the UCI within 24 hours. Actually, Rasmussen was more specific: he said that he'd both faxed and called the UCI. Who had he talked to? No less than UCI anti-doping manager, Anne Gripper, Rasmussen said this afternoon.
That seemed to be that. On went the questions, none dwelling on that April 2 conversation. But Rasmussen's answer had set some brains ticking. He said he spoke to Anne Gripper, right? What, the same Anne Gripper who made headlines recently by declaring that she wanted to unmask cycling's "Men in Black"? The same Anne Gripper who, hang on...only joined the UCI from the Australian Anti-doping Agency on October 17, 2006, i.e. 198 days after Rasmussen's purported phone call.
Within an hour of Rasmussen walking out of the Palais Beaumont, Gripper had been contacted. She confirmed that it was "impossible" that she and Rasmussen could have spoken on that date. "I had a long vacation from January to October 2006 after my work in Australia. [What Rasmussen says] is strange," she commented.
Rabobank manager Theo de Rooij, who sat alongside Rasmussen for the duration of the press conference, was unavailable for comment.
No doubt both he and Rasmussen will have more explaining to do when the Tour resumes tomorrow morning. Let's hope that they get their facts right this time.