Rabobank riders questioned in doping probe

Menchov: "I have nothing to do with this"

Austrian police on Wednesday made contact with Tour of Italy leader Denis Menchov's Rabobank team as part of their wide ranging investigation into blood doping.

As Menchov was defending his lead in the 17th stage of the Giro, Rabobank spokesman Luuc Eisenga told Austrian news agency APA: "Criminal police have made contact with us. We've assured them of our complete cooperation."

He insisted that all the Dutch team's riders were competing 'clean'.

Menchov, who has denied any involvement in the affair despite being linked with it along with three other former team-mates, said he was prepared to answer questions from the authorities over the affair.

"This is not new," said Menchov speaking in Italy after the finish of the 17th stage. "We spoke about this last year and I explained myself. I have nothing to do with this.

"But perhaps if someone wishes to ask me questions, then there is no problem. However, I would tell them the same thing," added Menchov, who has been riding for the team since 2005.

The Austrian investigation is focused on a Vienna laboratory, Humanplasma, which is suspected of being at the heart of a blood doping ring.

Suspended Austrian cyclist Bernhard Kohl, who announced his retirement on Monday, has reportedly told prosecutors he received blood transplants at Humanplasma.

Investigators in April found a centrifuge, used for blood-doping, at the Budapest flat of the Tour de France third's former manager Stefan Matschiner.

Kohl apparently told investigators that he and nordic skiing Olympic gold-medallist Christian Hoffman and Danish cyclist and former Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen had paid for the equipment.

Austria embarked on a major anti-doping clean-up in March with a series of arrests, including that of former Austrian nordic skiing coach Walter Mayer, cyclist Christof Kerschbaum, and a Vienna pharmacist believed to have supplied both with banned substances.

© 2009 AFP

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