German TV links Rabobank riders to blood lab

Rasmussen, others alleged to have used Austrian lab

Disgraced Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen, excluded from the 2007 Tour de France while wearing the leader's yellow jersey in the final week, was one of the cyclists who visited an Austrian laboratory presently the subject of two separate investigations, German television station ARD reported on Tuesday.

According to ARD, Rasmussen, as well as his former Rabobank team-mates, retired Dutchman Michael Boogerd and 2007 Vuelta España winner, Russian Denis Menchov, stored blood with the laboratory. The laboratory Humanplasma, based in Vienna, is being investigated by the Vienna prosecutors office and by the Interior Ministry in conjunction with customs after appeals by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA's former president Dick Pound had alerted the Austrian authorities on November 23 that he believed there were good reasons to believe the laboratory with injections of their own blood after doping.

Rabobank refused to comment on the report. "As we have not been informed formally about this matter, I cannot therefore say a lot," said acting sporting director Henri van der Aat. "There are always a lot of rumours floating about and cycling foremost among them.

"We are always watchful of our riders blood and everything was always in order," he added.

Boogerd, who is now retired after a distinguished career which included winning the Amstel Gold race classic in 1999 and finishing fifth in the 1998 Tour de France, was unable to give his reaction as the 35-year-old Dutchman was in bed with a bout of 'flu, but his wife felt free to give her opinion.

"We are surprised and it is not pleasant to be linked to a doping affair," she said. "But there again there are always plenty of rumours circulating."

It is also believed, according to the TV channel, that 30 top sports people are involved with the laboratory of which two thirds are German and include several biathletes and cross country skiers. 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 - he was subsequently sacked by the team.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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