Boogerd, Menchov deny links with blood lab

Austrian plasma lab linked with Rasmussen, other athletes

Retired Dutch cyclist Michael Boogerd and his former team-mate Denis Menchov have denied their links to a laboratory which has been targeted by anti-doping authorities for storing athletes' blood.

The duo were on Tuesday among the athletes, including former Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen and a number of biathletes and cross country skiers, named in a report by German television channel ARD as being clients of Vienna-based laboratory Humanplasma.

Humanplasma is being investigated by Austrian prosecutors and by the Interior Ministry following a tip-off from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) about possible doping violations.

Both Boogerd and Menchov denied they were linked to the probe.

"I always wondered throughout my career whether I would be accused of doping," Boogerd told De Telegraaf newspaper. "And now that it (career) is over, I hear this. It's put a black mark on my career," Boogerd added that he formally denied any implication in the affair.

Rabobank team leader Menchov appeared less concerned by the allegations when he said: "It won't be the first rumour going around. (But) I don't know anything about this affair."

ARD claimed Tuesday that Rasmussen, who was thrown off the 2007 Tour de France for suspected doping violations, and former Rabobank team-mates Boogerd and Menchov all stored blood with the laboratory - to be used at a later time as a performance enhancer.

It is also reported the laboratory was mainly used by top athletes from biathlon and cross country skiing.

The affair has prompted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president, Thomas Bach, to demand answers from the Austrian authorities about who is involved, and to what extent.

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.

"The IOC wants to know the names of the athletes and if they are linked in any way to the investigations concerning this laboratory," said Bach in the letter.

Meanwhile a manager for Rasmussen, Mads Rasmussen, refuted the accusations made in the report.

"Michael Rasmussen has never been found guilty of doping," he said. "And each time there's a story linking him to doping it always comes to nothing."

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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