Rasmussen can start 12th stage

Tour de France overall leader Michael Rasmussen will take part in the 12th stage from Montpellier to Castres, race director Christian Prudhomme said on Friday.

Tour de France overall leader Michael Rasmussen brushed off doping claims on Friday claiming he had made an "administrative error" after missing two random doping controls.

Rasmussen, who rides for the Dutch Rabobank team, missed random visits by International Cycling Union (UCI) officials leading up to the Tour, on which he is wearing the yellow jersey following his stage win in the Alps last weekend.

UCI president Pat McQuaid confirmed to AFP that a third missed test would have amounted to a doping violation. "We issued him a warning that if he missed another test it would amount to a doping violation. But there's no evidence of doping," McQuaid told AFP Friday, adding the UCI had no power to prevent him racing. "We couldn't stop him starting the race (Tour). That's a question you would have to ask Rabobank."

Rasmussen's error, however, has not gone unnoticed. He has been axed from representing the Danish national team in major championships, including the Olympic Games in 2008. And the news has cast a pall over the race only days after the news of German Patrik Sinkewitz's positive 'A' test for testosterone.

Rasmussen meanwhile said all he was guilty of was forgetting to tell officials of his whereabouts.

"I feel this has been blown a little out of proportion," Rasmussen said. "I can confirm I have no positive doping tests and I have been tested out of competition in June and those tests were negative. I certainly do want to continue riding the Tour de France."

He added: "I do admit I committed an administrative error. I have already received a warning from the UCI but I am very calm and very relaxed."

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said he needed extra information to explain why the Danish federation punished Rasmussen before he would consider whether to take action against the rider. "Why was this information given during the Tour de France?" Prudhomme said, referring to Rasmussen's appearance in the Danish national championships on June 30 which comes under the auspices of the national federation.

A lack of proof means that ASO, the company which runs the Tour de France, has to give Rasmussen the benefit of the doubt. Prior to the 12th stage from Montpellier to Castres on Friday, Rasmussen was given the green light to race.

Rasmussen, a former world mountain bike champion, said, "I have full support from the ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) and I'm starting in the yellow jersey today. I don't blame the UCI, I take responsibility for not informing the UCI of my whereabouts.

"I know a lot of riders who have received warnings for not giving updated information to the UCI. I'm just one out of many and it's just that I happen to have the yellow jersey."

Rasmussen will now be ruled out of the world championships in Stuttgart in September and the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, where he had been hoping to go for the mountain bike gold.

© AFP 2007

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