The storm over Michael Rasmussen’s missed dope tests shows no sign of abating, with yet more officials, team managers and newspapers taking aim at the Dane in the past 24 hours.
UCI president Pat McQuaid has led the critics, commenting on Monday: “From an image point of view, it would be better if it was not Rasmussen but one of the youngest riders winning the Tour.”
Asked for his reaction to McQuaid’s remarks, Rasmussen, who has refused to discuss any matter not strictly race-related in the past 48 hours, said: “That’s news to me. I have been training for this Tour ever since I left hospital with a broken left femur last October. I have every intention of trying to win the race.”
McQuaid was far from the only one to crank up the already stifling pressure on the Tour leader on Monday. In an interview with Le Figaro, Tour president Patrice Clerc banished any hint that, by deciding not to exclude the Rabobank climber last week, race organisers ASO had given Rasmussen its moral support. Clerc said that he “regretted” Rasmussen’s presence in the race. The Tour chief called the race leader’s failure to communicate his whereabouts an act of “guilty negligence.”
Speaking in Foix ahead of stage 15 this morning, Clerc was even more outspoken, particularly about Rasmussen’s refusal to answer questions about doping in post-race press conferences. “When you wear the yellow jersey, you really have to be an example,” Clerc said. “He’s not an example and, to me, he doesn’t deserve to wear the yellow jersey…What he’s doing now, saying that won’t answer questions about doping, is another way of not taking responsibility and not showing the sport respect. “
Also in Foix, Astana manager Marc Biver was asked whether his team may be interested in he Dane when his contract expires at the end of the season. Biver replied: “He’s not coming to Astana, that’s for sure. Will anyone want to sign him? In this business there are people who don’t care about ethics, people who are totally selfish. Someone will sign him…”
That someone definitely won’t be Jean-René Bernaudeau. The Bouygues Telecom supremo told L’Equipe today that he wasn’t among those swooning at Rasmussen’s climbing at Plateau de Beille on Sunday.
Even if he’d been watching, Berneadeau probably wouldn’t have been too enamoured.
“I was at my hotel an hour before the stage ended and I didn’t watch the end of the race. I had no desire to,” Bernaudeau told L’Equipe. “It reminded me of the start of the decade. Last year, there’d been a change, but now, there’s nothing.”
Clearly many are outraged. Others have decided that sarcasm is the only response to Rasmussen. French newspaper Libération positioned itself very much in the latter camp on Monday morning. Here’s a small taste:
“The German TV stations ARD and ZDF are wrong to prefer Inspector Derrick to the Tour de France: here, there’s all sorts of drama. Miracles. You can tell that we’re getting close to Lourdes, that it’s the Tour of the resurrection. Take Rasmussen, for example, this prodigy that the Vatican wants in its number. Michael, the Dane from Rabobank, was a climber. Suddenly, on Saturday, he became a time triallist, whereas usually he sinks in that discipline…And we’re already dreaming: Sunday, on the Champs Elyées, Rasmussen, in yellow, wins the bunch sprint. Because he’s going to become a sprinter between now and then. Yes, Michael, you can do it. You became a time triallist in three days, you have six left to master sprinting…It can be done, their farce is with you.”