UCI applauds Rabo decision

But asks, "Why not in June?"

International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid has applauded the Rabobank team's decision to pull race leader Michael Rasmussen out of the Tour de France on Wednesday.

However McQuaid said he wondered why the Dutch outfit had waited so long before acting on information about the Dane having missed four random doping controls, which they knew about prior to the race.

"I wonder why they did not make the decision in June when they had the information (about the missed tests)," said McQuaid.

"However it shows a zero tolerance policy, and I can only applaud it."

Despite having no positive tests so far the 33-year-old climbing specialist has been the subject of doping speculation since it was revealed last week that he missed four random doping controls over the past 18 months.

Two of those controls were under the auspices of the Danish Cycling Union (DCU) while the other two were run by the UCI.

Three missed tests by any one body amounts to a doping violation, and a consequent sanction under the rules of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

McQuaid had said earlier this week however that since Rasmussen had "not committed any doping offences" he was free to continue on the race.

Nevertheless, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme told AFP Saturday he was angry at the fact that Rabobank, who knew of Rasmussen's missed tests, informed no one before the race.

"We would have made the Rabobank team face up to their responsbilities," he said, suggesting they would have lost their invitation.

Efforts by the UCI and the Tour de France to rid the sport of doping have intensified, and led to the introduction of strict ethical guidelines for participating teams.

Despite having no concrete evidence, the Tour de France ejected 13 riders two days prior to last year's edition because of their alleged implication in a Spanish doping scandal dubbed 'Operation Puerto'.

A few months ago Italian star Ivan Basso, one of the 13 ousted riders, received a two-year ban for his link to the affair which centred on a Spanish sports doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes.

The breaking point for Rabobank, who had backed their rider until Wednesday, came when they learned that he had been in Italy in June, and not in Mexico, where he sometimes lives with his Mexican wife, as he had claimed.

"As a result, it has been decided that he will not start the race tomorrow," said team spokesman Jacob Bergsma.

Bergsma said a decision on whether the rest of the team would remain in the race, which ends this Sunday in Paris, would be made on Thursday morning.

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