Outcast. "Personally, I think it is the biggest scandal in sports history.
Across sports. "Michael Rasmussen of miscarriage of justice, on doping
hysteria, to understand Marco Pantani, the sick thoughts, and about why he
did not intend to give up.
By Klaus Wivel
There is a narrow street in the outskirts of the small northern Italian
medieval Lazise. The slope slightly downward, writhing on the left and opens up to a major road that leads to a small top. Northeasterly
a church is seen in the horizon and behind it threatens the
Dolomites. They are not seen today. The mountains are hidden behind the mist.
On top, a few meters above the road, behind fences and concrete and a large,
locked, green iron door, is a villa. A brown labrador barkes angrily
at the visitors up from the lawn.
In August 2007 it was possible to find cameramen and journalists
hiding in the hedges around the house and the press were found
cross examening Lazise bewildered citizens about the besieged men living on
top of a hill.
Major sports newspapers also sent journalists to Durango in Mexico to
interview the locals if they had seen a slender rider cycling
around the area in June 2007. They hadn't, interestingly enough. Had the man on
the bicycle ever been in Mexico? That was the cruciel story this summer.
Also inns and mountain huts in the Dolomites got visits from
the pushy detectives on the trail of a huge scandal.
Today, there is no one to see. Only a few hens going round in a meadow. The
world has lost interest in the man who was once hunted game.
There he is in a door in the garage: Michael Rasmussen. He looks younger than
I thought - the last few years taken into account. It's like seeing a
man I've known her whole life. He smiles and leads me into a
When he has served cafe latte, we place ourselves on each side of an
elongated table covered with a tablecloth signed in solar colors. Here we
are to sit the next five hours.
At one point I ask if he feels he has suffered a miscarriage of justice.
He thinks about it for two seconds.
"Yes," he replies. "Personally, I think it is the biggest scandal in sports
history. Across sports. " He looks down. "Of course I'm personally involved," he
His Danish self-irony is quickly swept away.
"But, yes. I am still convinced that I followed the rules. And I would have
been untouchable if the organizations had followed the rules. A book has
been written about it."
That's right. In late autumn Verner Møller's Lie over Lie -
Michael Rasmussen's Tour de France exit appeared. It is a long book full of notes and documentation rehabilitating the Danish mountain rider. The prosecutors who helped put
Michael Rasmussen out of Tour de France in 2007, are the ones being
accused: Tour Management ASO, the UCI International Cycling Union, the
Danish Cycling Union DCU, Michael Rasmussen's Rabobank team, the Danish
Government and the country's sports journalists. Although Verner Møller's
book has been treated with silence by all the country's major newspapers,
his book raises so many questions that any future debate on the Dane's
misfortune needs to begin here.
I ask Michael Rasmussen what he regrets about the whole affair - and expects
to hear a contrite speech. I do not get it.
"The first thing that occurs to me is that I should have changed nationality
already in 2005. I should have become a Mexican citizen. In that way I never would have had
any problems with the Danish Cycling Union's Jesper Worre. Back then I was the
only rider in the world who would gather warnings from two different
organizations. I was the only rider from Denmark who was good enough to be
on UCI's priority list. At the same time I was the only rider who had a
national union who reported to the International Cycling Union, UCI and whose boss Jesper
Worre broke his confidentiality when he went to the press with information about my warnings. It was a unique situation.
UCI, for example, knew nothing about that Thor Hushovd in 2007 had two
warnings from the Norwegian anti-doping federation."
Only a dim light is being let into the basement where the Danish mountain rider
has spent so much time recently. It's cold. He wears a black sweater with
zipper and a pair of washedout jeans. His face is only bones, his nose sunburned,
skin worn thin by the wind and weather, hair growth and beard around his
mouth a millimeter short. He looks like a man who only made up of sharp
angles, sheer shoulders, knees, elbows and cheekbones.
He is obviously a wounded man. Michael Rasmussen was not only professionally
damaged when he in the 25th July 2007 was thrown out of a Tour de France
he probably would have won. He also lost his credibility. Add to that 40
million dollars which he could have added to his victory. Today he is
running for 300,000 kroner a year in the small third-rate Italian team
Miche-Silver Cross which have no access to the races the Danish climber in
his two-year quarantine drove 60,000 kilometers to participate in. And he
has had tremendous difficulty in coming
back despite the fact that he has served his sentence.
I ask him if he did not underestimated the press and the demands that nobody could
have missed: that cycling should be cleaned completely of doping.
"Yes. But still I thought I followed the rules. Otherwise, I would not have done
it. I think I've read the rules better than anyone else. "
- But the rules were in fact changed? There were a moral rules which were
considerably tougher than the legal rules.
"Yes, but no rider had ever been convicted of the moral rules. The Tour management had
never taken a decision in that light before."
- Should you not have been more careful?
"The atmosphere was whipped up to unprecedented heights. There was a series
of unfortunate events all of which have hit me. Telekom - the former
T-Mobile - would all confess their sins in May 2007. Bjarne Riis said to the press they
could just go and retrieve his yellow jersey - it was at home in the
garage. The French were obviously pissed off about that. When another Dane suddenly
got the yellow jersey it raised
suspicions and it became obvious that it had to go wrong. If I had been Spanish
I would never have been outed."
- Are you thinking of Contador who instead of you won the Tour de France in 2007?
"I would certainly not have survived if my name had been on the Puerto list," says Michael
Rasmussen, with reference to the landmark case on the Operación Puerto blood
doping in Spain from 2006 which felled many top riders.
"But there was no bag with MR on as there still is
one that says AC."
- You were judged more severely?
"Yes, because I come from what little shit puritanical country." He laughs
with a high and clear, boyish voice.
- One of your idols, Marco Pantani, was thrown out of the Giro in 1999 with
high hematocrit. Is he an equally big idol for you today, as he was before
he was taken?
"Absolutely," he answers promptly.
"I am quite sure that at the time they all raced on the same conditions. Pantani
did not deceived the rider who was number two, and who might have had 49.9 in
hematocrit. Pantani just had a little bit higher. "
- What about those who did not take anything? For them is it not
"The opportunity was there at the time."
- So they should just have done it?
"The rules opened up for it at the time."
- Is it good that this has stopped?
"There are good and bad rules. It is fine, there is a rule that says that
you only need 50 percent hematocrit. Then there is no
falling dead any longer. It is a health measure. But when the measures
interfere so violently on our lives as the whereabouts system and
out-of-compition control does it is not good anymore. Now we
must be available to inspectors every day even when we do not race.
But it is positive that there is a control for EPO, blood doping, and
whatever it may be."
- What has happened in recent years?
Doping is criminalized in a degree which is crazy. One of the most
humiliating situations I have encountered have been here in my own house. I
woke up at half past seven and went to the toilet. Immediately after a
doping inspector came. I was in the process of boiling porridge. I could not
pee. I told him that now I'll eat my breakfast, and then we will have to wait and take the blood test first. The big German - a retired man of 60 who came from Monaco - looks
at me while I eat breakfast and begin to comment the arrangement of the
house. I tell him that now I'm wish to go on the toilet: But not to pee, to shit, I tell ham. Well that's no problem. He would look at i. Oh no, I say. Oh, yes,
I'll be standing over there in the doorway watching. It is one of the most
humiliating situations. To sit and shit in my own house and be monitored. "
- Why are the teams or riders not come together and said that now it's gone
"That is the problem. Whenever someone says anything people will say: You have
probably something to hide."
- Do you identify with Pantani?
"I think I am one of the few who understands how he felt. I
also think that if I had not had a family I would also have been at risk of
suffering the same fate. Tomorrow I am going down to visit Pantanis mom. I was down there last year on 14 February at his museum in
Cesenatico because it was the fifth anniversary of his death. I delivered a
yellow jersey to the museum. It is the only object that has not belonged to
him. My yellow jersey, I have dedicated it to Pantani."
- In which light is Pantani viewed in Italy?
"Down here you have a completely different and more realistic approach to
how things work. And no one speaks ill of the dead."
During a break in the conversation I take the liberty to walk around in his
large three-storey house. The decor is minimalist, clean and extremely
orderly. There is not a vase placed wrongly - not even a toy from his little boy has
been left carelessly on the floor. I guess that it is his Mexican wife who
has put all mirrors and pictures up that she has brought from home, and her
husband who is the meticulous one.
Briefly I steal a moment to study his refrigerator to see what one of the
field's lightest riders eat. My prejudices are confirmed in full: Carrots,
tomatoes and some lens soup in a Tupperware. I fully understand why the
whole inner door is blocked with spicy sauces.
As I come down again, I wish to know why this ascetic doesn't do as other convicted
drug riders have done: Get down on his knees and say "I am sorry". The riders who have done that tend to get back to the big teams again.
"I have done it," he replies.
"I have apologized and admitted that I gave incorrect information about my
- But it's not enough that you apologize for a single erroneous whereabouts.
You will need to apologize for something bigger.
"I will not apologize more than I
am guilty for. I can admit that I have given inaccurate information which as
prescribed in the Regulations may be punished with a warning. "
You do not have much insight into the world of cycling to know in which state the credibility of riders
hit by doping suspicions are in these years. In the latest issue of Cycle
Sport Magazine there is a list of biggest scandals in cycling and Pantani and
Rasmussen are bundled together in the seventh position. The acidic text that goes with it
ends with (erroneously) noting that Michael Rasmussen still denies that he
lied about his whereabouts - "as if someone bothered to listen."
Once a rider is exposed to a suspicion of doping, noone takes him seriously anymore.
He becomes the object of cheap laughter.
"Now it's almost so, then everything I've done is bad," says
"There is a young Danish rider, who wanted to settle here at Lake Garda so
he could train with me. His family has been on holiday in the area twenty
years in a row, and the kid has almost grown up here on a campsite. But he
has been told that he should settle down in Lucca instead, because I'm here.
I'm not credible. "
- What should be done with it?
"I can not do anything. It will hang on me throughout my life that I am one
who is lying. About everything. "
- How have you avoided becoming bitter about everything that has
"Who says I have. There are some people that if
they died I would live a happier life. If they suffered a lot and then died I would feel better. It may be a sick thought and perhaps even more sick to
say aloud, but it is the truth. There are some people who if
something really bad happens to them I will immediately send my
congratulations. They are so spread out a little of North Zealand and the
Netherlands and Switzerland."
- It did not get you to consider giving up?
"Then they have won. The only way I'm going to win is to continue
to move forward, and hopefully somewhere on my way meet a team manager
who has enough balls to take me in. Who will say: Enough is enough. Let's race again. It might be Bjarne Riis. "
- Have you talked to him about it?
"No. But if he takes me in, I think it could be beneficial for the both of us and I
do not think he would come into headwinds in the Danish press for it. "
- Does it play a role that many of the sports directors in the 90s were riding in
the heyday of EPO - and that they therefore are debilitated to take in a rider like you?
"This is where hypocrisy really kicks in. It's almost like reverse
smokers: As soon as they see an ashtray they are completely gray in the
face. All of them know how it worked. They have
even been a part of the game for years. But still: I am a rider who has never
been tested positive. But I am judged as if I've done all sorts of things that
are much worse. It would have been easier for me if I had been
tested positive. Then it would have been all black and white. Then
they wouldn't have to justify the radical action of taking the Tour de
France winner out of the race. It continues to haunt me. "
- Do you think you ever get to ride the Tour de France again?
"It's hard to say. I can't change it. It must be a team that
insists on it. If Bjarne Riis said, 'I want Michael Rasmussen in the Tour de
France', I would be in the Tour de France. I think I may tip the bowl.
I believe that I can be the rider who decides who should win the Tour de France
this year. If I rid for CSC, I think I can ensure that CSC can win. "
- How have the other riders responded to your case?
"When such a thing happens riders are very quick to distance themselves.
People you thought were friends turns out not be friends. During the two
and a half years that has passed I have not received a single phone call from a
active Danish rider beyond Jakob Fuglsang, who live five kilometers away. I
was phoned by Rolf Sorensen, Bo Hamburger and Brian Holm and all the old
riders who are not afraid. But I never got a phone
call from an active rider to hear how I felt - people I have shared the
same room with."
- The exclusion also functions among the riders?
"Yes. Now that I am back again, the riders almost act as
if nothing happened. I do not bother to talk to them. If they couldn't figure out
to call me in over two and a half years, the can't just pat me on the back and act as though we're best friends again."
After some hours, I want to talk about something other than this bitter
history. I imagine that the worst must be not be allowed to talk about his real passion: Cycling. So I asked him what made him great in the mountains.
"It is a combination of talent and physiognomy. It opened a
whole new world for me the first time I as
16-year-old came to Italy and found out that I could race uphill. In Denmark even if I trained more than most, I got no results. I'm lighter than other
riders and have high oxygen intake. The way my muscle fibers are put
together, there are many red fibers and a few whites. The whites are those
sprinters and track riders have. The rider who can bike
on max for a very long time, climb a mountain twenty kilometers long has the red. You
can not learn it. This is something one is born with. But it is in your head how faryou can race. "
- Did you like mountain riders as a child?
"Yes. Since I was quite small I've always been enormously selfish. Selfish
is a negatively charged word - let's call it strong-willed. "
- Just call it finally selfish.
"If I couldn't get my bicycle on school tours I would stay home.
I took my bike with the tour to Sicily and trailed in 36 hours in train.
When I was eight, my soccer coach called my parents and said it was probably
best that I chose another sport. I rebuked my friends when they played
poorly. He did not think I was suitable for team sports. When I lost in badminton, I
threw the bat after my opponent and did not want to say thanks for the
match. I was a really bad loser. But that's what (the Danish handball legend) Anja Andersen has said: A bad loser is a winner.
- She is also completely impossible.
"Well I don't think I am." He laughs.
"I was lucky that the mountain bike sport came to Europe when I was about 16
and I was instantly the best as a junior rider. This was about going up
and downhill. As a 19-20-year-old I discovered that people wanted to
pay me to ride a bike. It was a step forward. Had there been someone in Denmark who had had a little bit of an eye for it ... " We are interrupted by a phone call.
It has become dark and we go for a walk to air his two big Labrador
dogs. They have accepted the visitor. I the meadow the hens have gone away, but
the fog is still here.
He says he intends to become a Mexican citizen. His application only lacks
the president of Mexico's signature. Then Michael Rasmussen can race at the World
Cup race in 2011. For the Mexican squad in Denmark. When his career is over, he wishes to
coach a team of Mexicans.
When we come back, we talk about Tiger Woods' and the British
football players heavily media exposed infidelity and the idea that sports
stars need to be role models.
"The media wishes an ideal world that does not exist in sports.
Now athletes suddenly have to be good examples for other people. But they are not like that. Sport is war. It is not the good qualities that comes forward. We are trying to
destroy each other with all available means. There is no such thing as loving ones neighbour when you are sitting next to your competitor on the
way up the hill. All that is on your mind is what to stick your knife into. Where is he
most vulnerable? "
- How can you see that?
"You can easily see when they are suffering on the
bike. It's all over their faces and in their way of biking. It's about winning."
- Did you notice that Contador suffered on the way up the Col
"No, because I could not see him. I had to lie between Leipheimer and Contador.
On the last kilometer I increased the speed to see the reaction."
- It must have been the happiest day of your life.
"And the most unhappy. The most surreal experience I ever had. Quite,
quite awful. I'd won, and when I finish the press conference and doping control, I
am on my way home by helicopter on the way back to the hotel along with
Menchov and Erik Dekker. My team manager Theo de Roiij rang a few times along
the way, but we could not hear anything in the helicopter. He had been told
that (the Danish journalist Niels-Christian) Jung had now interviewed the Italian sports journalist Davide Cassani, and that the entire journalism camp was at the other end because Cassani said he had seen me in Italy. When we got back to the hotel de Roiij
came into my room. He said we are 'fucked'. Now you've ruined it for us all.
Then he was in contact with the bank, and he said that we have to take
you out of the race. The orders came from the bank manager. He had obviously been in
contact with the ASO. I answered him: 'You are not crazy'.
De Roiij say in front of my teammates that he has taken me out because I have lied to the
team. So I ask what internal rules I have broken? He could not answer. I
was told to pack my suitcase. All the journalists were on their way. I
was driven away in a civil Rabobank car and taken to a hotel 30 km from
- It must have been a long night?
"I talked in my mobile until there was no more credit. (Danish Cycle Union chairman) Jesper Worre phoned me at two in the night and said it was not his fault, but they
could not handle any more responses like the one Bjarne Riis had given: that 'I have
never tested positive'. He said that cycling is bleeding and
we can not endure more. I remember it. He calls me and is gloating at two o'clock
at night, just after I was taken out of the Tour de France."
Pause. His eyes become glassy.
"And then he subsequently did everything possible so that I would not be able to
- How did you get through such a night?
"Had there been a big thick rope in there I might not have been here today. I went looking for it in the room. Had the curtains been hung on a
string instead of a pole, it could well all have been different. This is when
normality ends. Those who can bring himself to say,
'oh but it's just a race', have not understood anything."
- How did you find the motivation to ride again?
"Two days later I was out training again. It was
therapy. I was in my right element again. The alternative was that I
sat down here and read all the bad news. Of course I also have had periods of depression where I just sat in the basement when I came home from my bike
ride. When my wife asked what I wanted to eat, I said, 'you can just give me
two beers', and then I sat here and stared into the wall or the
On days when the CAS upheld the verdict which gave my a two-year suspension,
was a black day. Now I had to pay a further 30,000 euro to lawyers and I
had hoped for a fair deal. Or the day, the UCI sent me a fine of 700,000
euros. It was really a black day. Or the day I wasn't allowed to start in
Tour of Spain in 2009. A very, very sad day. But all the while I have said:
No, it should not end this way. If I can win a race next week or next month, it is still
worth it. Then I would have shown that I still am the cyclist I was before. "
It is late and it's hard to resist being moved by Michael Rasmussen
grotesque situation. Behind him in the basement is an open space with a
large B&O flat screen and some futuristic speakers. Some meters away is a
couch where you can get ones head blown off by sounds and
I tell him how I was sitting at an Irish pub on Vimmelskaftet in Copenhagen
watching the Col d'Aubisque finish on that crazy day, 25 July 2007.
"For me it's nice to hear. It's like the 11th September when everyone
remembers what they were doing. There are a few days people may remember from
the Tour de France. We can remember when Bjarne won at Hautacam. And we remember when Armstrong crashed on the road at the
mountain because he had a plastic bag in the wheel. The next time was when
Rasmussen and Contador rode on the mountain."
- After the things you've been through, it must be tempting to give up?
"I like it when the story ends happily. It would be so absurd if this
day should be the last I rode a bicycle. The last day I drove competitive
cycling was to win the royal stage in the Tour de France yellow jersey
without winning the Tour de France. Without ever having been tested positive, but
for having lied to my team that I subsequently receive the judge's word for
not having done."
In front of us lies an Verner Møller's book. The cover shows Michael Rasmussen
shortly after he has crossed the finishing line as the winner of the day. I wonder
what he thinks about when he sees the picture.
"I've seen stage hundreds of times. When I'm
depressed I go down here and see Tour de France stages. Then I can sit and
think that it is not very long ago I was best in the world. I can just sit there
and cry about it. The first interview I ever did with Holbæk Amts
Venstreblad when I was eight, and I told the journalist that in 2000 I would be riding the Tour de France."
He looks at the cover again.
"The wildest thing is that it's almost a miracle that I win there. I rode the Tour
de France with a metal operated into my hip. On my left hip I broke the femur
bone nine months before the Tour and I was told that I couldn't ride again until January. No time for that, I answered. I have to win the
Tour de France in July. I rode a bicycle five weeks after I had broken my
- Didn't it hurt like crazy?
"Yes, but I'm also declared nine percent disabled. It is a handicapped man who
wins the Tour de France. "
- A brutal sport.
"We're not really build for it."
The black list. He has served his sentence. He is in top condition. So what is preventing Michael Rasmussen in returning to the best race?
By Klaus Wivel
In the morning, 14 February 2010, Michael Rasmussen turned on his computer.
"Dear Mr. McQuaid," the Danish mountain rider began his mail to the powerful Irish president of the Union Cycliste Internationale UCI who goes under the first name Pat.
"As you probably already know I have succesfully made my reentrance to Professional cycling after serving a two year ban handed to me by the Monagasque cycling
federation," Michael Rasmussen continued.
"In this past week I participated in the Tour de Mediteraneo in France, and had a talk with Mr. Vinokourov. He told me that his team, Astana, is keen to sign me this current season, but has encountered resistance of approval by the president of the UCI. I assume he must have misunderstood you."
The irony is hardly lost on Pat McQuaid. Michael Rasmussen has publicly for months accused the president of obstructing his way back to the top.
Pat McQuaid replied the mail with silence, and after a week Michael Rasmussen send him a reminder. "I do realize that you are a very busy man," he writes with all the kindness he could muster.
The following day there is a mail in Danish inbox. "He insists," it says in the mail from Pat McQuaid: "this makes me even more want to tell him to Fxxx Off," the president added, "but give me a couple of words which says the same and gets him off my back."
The mail from the president was meant to be for his secretary. Instead, he send it to Michael Rasmussen by mistake. The blessings of modern communication...
Is "fxxx off" the only message that UCI has for Michael Rasmussen these years? Has the Dane been given a life sentences?
Weekendavisen have talked to numerous actors in the Danish and international cycling world - riders, sports directors, lawyers and bike journalists - to find out what is preventing Michael Rasmussen from returning to the big races after his quarantine. At the Tour de France in 2007 he was taken out by his own Rabobank team just as he was about to win the race. Six months later he was sentenced a two-year exclusion for misinforming the doping authorities about where he was shortly before the Tour started.
Michael Rasmussen and several others believe today that he is being blacklisted by Pat McQuaid. According to the Danish mountain rider the president threatens to exclude teams who wants to hire him from the big races - the so-called ProTour races, which includes the mountainous Tour of Spain, Tour of Italy and Tour de France.
Pat McQuaid denies this. The Dane is free to run, he says.
This is not true, Antonio Rigozzi tells - a Swiss lawyer who has worked for several riders with doping offences - among them the Kazakh star rider Alexander Vinokourov and Michael Rasmussen. He has also authored several books and articles on the legal aspects of professional cycling. He is quite confident that there is a blacklist:
"I have followed Michael Rasmussen's case closely. It is clear that UCI presses teams not to write a contract with him. "
As a sign that there is a blacklist, Antonio Rigozzi explains that absolutely no consistency in who is allowed to return to the races after a doping ban and who is not.
"There are no rules in the sport. We live in a world where people in small offices determine the future of the riders. "
It is hardly because of Michael Rasmussen's current strength in the mountains that teams are reluctant to hire the Dane.
In the autumn 2009 he drove a number of smaller races for the little Mexican team, Team Tecos Trek, including the Vuelta a Chihuahua in October 2009, which he led for three days. And if you ask the riders who know him and who have raced with him recently the answer is clear:
Says Luis Angel Maté Mardon, 26, who rides for the Italian team Androni Giocattoli, and in January 2010 he competed against the Dane in the Tour de San Luis in Argentina:
"In my opinion Michael is one of the best talent of the international sport in the last years. It´s incomprehensible, unjust and absurd that a rider of his talent, can´t run the best races. Unfortunately, our sports authorities do nothing. I think we are missing the opportunity to see a great athlete in action. I think he still has some years to be in the elite of world cycling."
The Danish talent Jacob Fuglsang, 25, from Team Saxo Bank who is training with him daily says: "He has the same intensity that he had before the quarantine. Last year at the end of the season, he drove really fast. There is no bad faith on the other riders for Michael Rasmussen. They know that he never tested positive. But there is a considerable reluctance from the UCI and from a part of the managers. But if you have served your sentence, you should be able to come back. "
The same words come from Kazakh Alexander Vinokorouv - the rider who, according to Michael Rasmussen's e-mail to Pat McQuaid was interested in hiring the Dane. However Vinokourov will neither confirm nor deny whether Astana is interested.
"It is my manager, who determines who we hire, neither me nor Pat McQuaid," he continues.
Vinokourov was expelled from the Tour de France in 2007 because he tested positive for blood doping which triggered a two-year suspension. Unlike Michael Rasmussen, Vinokourov had his own wealthy team ready when he returned.
"But I would like to race with Michael Rasmussen on the team. He is a good cyclist. He can compete with Contador," continues Kazakhstan, in reference to last year's Spanish Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.
"Right now I just know that Michael is opposed by the UCI," said Vinokourov.
Rudy Pevenage has also observed a resistance against Michael Rasmussen. Pevenage had a great career as a rider and in the 90s as a sports director of Telekom he was a mentor for Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich.
"I know nothing of a blacklist, but I can imagine that powerful people in cycling are opposed to seeing Michael Rasmussen get back. It is a shame," he says.
In 2006 he was forced to resign when Jan Ullrich was mentioned in the so-called Operación Puerto in Spain in 2006 in which a large number of major riders were linked to blood doping. Pevenage continues:
"I saw Michael Rasmussen in the Vuelta a Chihauhau. I can say that if his sports director had had a better tactic, he would have won."
Rudy Pevenage does not wish to speculate on why he can not come back. But he has noticed that many other riders with doping offences have been able to come back.
"They are punished differently for the same offenses. But it is quite normal, and everyone in the industry talks about it. Some are punished for life - others are allowed to get back again. It is the biggest problem in cycling right now, "says the former Belgian sprinter.
The 35-year-old Danish mountain rider himself says that he is in as good a shape today as at the same time three years ago, but given his age it is urgent to find a out what is happening.
Pat McQuaid is described as a "lion and a street fighter." The Irish president has, since taking office in 2006, launched a "total reversal of the elite races which have been spun into a culture of cheating", as he put it.
This is due to many scandals that for years took virtually all the major stars out of the races. The all-important German TV threatened to shut down the broadcasts of the big races for this reason and many sponsors have to considered other alternatives in getting their names out. Pat McQuaid's main task has been to provide professional cycling with a reputation as the sport that has gone furthest in cleaning up.
The result is as one observer puts it that he tries to make "cycling better than the real world." In his eagerness to scrub the image of cycling completely clean, he has thrashed legal principles and unjustifiably ruined the careers of many riders.
Pat McQuaid reluctance to the Dane is, says the critics, not only due to the suspension, but also because Rasmussen hasn't been prepared to be president's anti-doping missionary.
In any event, Michael Rasmussen already few days after his return 26 July 2009 ran into the first closed door. In May 2009 the Italian team Ceramica Flamania wrote a contract with the Dane. It was signed by team manager Roberto Marrone.
However with his pen at the bottom of the contract he added: "The contract will not be valid if the organization RCS [Giro d'Italia's owner, Ed.] or UCI show reluctance to the rider."
The UCI did show reluctance. Flaminia sporting director explained Brian Askvig of Ekstra Bladet that because of "the UCI-position the contract is no longer possible."
Supplied with this information the Danish UCI member Peder Pedersen said to TV2 that UCI easily could have given the team a 'friendly advice to cool it'."
Peder Pedersen may have felt he was speaking on a firm basis because his words were well founded in the international cycling union's own policies. The UCI president had in a note on the "Rider's support for a new cycling" asked the "professional continental teams not to sign up any riders who have been dropped by UCI ProTour teams because of their involvement in doping."
But Flaminia leadership and Peder Pedersen's statements was to confirm Michael Rasmussen's suspicions that there was a policy to ban him and other for life.
That was proparbly illegal, and very quickly Pat McQuaid denounced Peder Pedersen. UCI did not interfere in who the teams recruited, and no one is excluded from the sport, explained the president.
At the same time Flaminia team leader Roberta Marrone suddenly realized that the UCI had not prevented his team in signing a contract with the Dane. He had "never been exposed to any pressure from anyone, nor the UCI ... They told us: 'When the sporting sanction is over, all riders can return'." Marrone threatened Ekstra Bladet with legal action if the newspaper did not withdraw the now erroneous statements.
Shortly after the Spanish team Contentpolis-Ampoe took an interest in the little Danish climber, but the team wanted to ensure that Rasmussen would be allowed by the organizers of the Tour of Spain to start in the autumn race.
That also went wrong. The organizers would not let him join with the reason that he signed up too late. According to Ekstra Bladet had several other riders in the same position were allowed to race.
Late last fall, professor of sports at Aarhus University Verner Moller's explaned what why Michael Rasmussen was prevented from coming back.
In order to understand it we must revert to 25 July 2007 - the day Michael Rasmussen was removed from the Tour de France after winning the stage on the Col d'Aubisque in front of Alberto Contador.
In his book Lies over Lies - Michael Rasmussen Tour de France exit Moller concludes that the Danish rider was removed even though he acted within UCI's own rules.
"There were no sportly reason to take him out. He was take out because of vicious media coverage, " Verner Moller says. It was the Danish media which found out that he had lied about his whereabouts. They formed an alliance with the Danish Cycling Union director Jesper Worre who broke his confidentiality obligation and told of the warnings which the UCI and Anti Doping Denmark had given the Dane.
Talking to sports directors at the big ProTour team Michael Rasmussen's status is not quite so high. Sources in this environment believes that he is master of his own misfortune and that he nearly ruined the Tour in 2007 with his lies. A miscarriage of justice are not the words that are on their tongues.
The attitude here is that if you are responsible for a team with a lot of many employees, it matters which rumors stick to a rider - whether they are true or not. And it only takes one doping tested rider to make a sponsor withdraw several million dollars and send everyone on the team out on the streets.
Michael Rasmussen's person is pointing backwards to a period when doping was accepted as long as it was kept hidden. Today, cycling changed has changed, they say. A new era requires unequivocally clean riders.
Johnny Weltz does not believe in the theory of a black list. He says that the big ProTour teams themselves determine who to hire and in that respect Michael Rasmussen's name is surrounded by "negative vibrations".
Weltz 'Team Garmin is one of the teams that have gone furthest in eliminating doping among their riders.
"Our sponsors would never accept that we hired Michael Rasmussen," the former professional Danish star rider says.
"A team must weigh the advantages with the disadvantages before it hires a rider and Michael Rasmussen has a reputation that is to shady. Today cycling has changed."
But Johnny Weltz also states that Michael Rasmussen was removed "for a case that was not an case. It was not fair and they acted in panic." It was until that year quite common to cheat with the whereabouts. For many it had no consequences, continues Weltz.
"Michael's offence become so damaging because it was exposed in front of the entire world," he says. The little lie suddenly became blown out in widescreen. Michael Rasmussen's reputation could not survive that - not in those days nor know when he is trying to return.
"His fate reminds me of Bøje Nielsen - the great Danish entrepraneur who was declared bankrupt and had to sell everything from, although many years later it came out that he was deeply solvent. It broke him. It is such a thing that happens. Afterwards you can say: How fair was that," Johnny Weltz says.
Jim Ferstle who supports tough doping justice and has praised Pat McQuaid's policy, also believes we avoid thinking in conspiracies. The U.S. doping journalist explains that one can look at Pat McQuaid obvious displeasure by Rasmussen in two ways:
"It may have nothing to do with a "black list," but more to do with the image of the sport, "he says.
He states that sponsors are the "life blood" of sports. Without them, no competition.
"Athletes who have been convicted of doping offenses are not likely to be seen as an asset to any athletes group, more like pariahs. It's like in some countries if you are convicted of certain crimes, you can no longer vote. The idea that it is necessary to severely punish these "offenders" so that this will act as a deterrent to committing the "crime"," Jim Ferstle continues.
He believes that the UCI knows that to exclude riders who only once have been taken for doping is illegal.
"So they just make it as difficult as possible for athletes to get back in the sport and/or make a living from the sport."
BUT Jim Ferstles interpretation does not explain the apparent inconsistencies that exists in Pat McQuaid very often proclaimed "total reversal".
Critics point out, for example, the suspicious element in the fact that the UCI - allegedly wishing to combat doping - did not sue Rabobank - the team that picked Michael Rasmussen out of Tour on the grounds that he had lied to the managers.
In the summer of 2008 in a court in the Dutch city of Utrecht Michael Rasmussen won a case for unfair dismissal and was awarded damages of 665,000 euros in lost earnings which Rabobank has had to pay him. The Court found that the Rabobank was well aware of the Dane's whereabouts prior to the Tour. Thus the big Dutch team was its complicit in covering up doping swindel. It is estimated that the UCI easily could have won a case against Rabobank.
Sport Professor Verner Moller says: "UCI does not file suit because Rabobank is a sponsor and cycling needs Rabobank which places a lot of money in the sport. They largely fund Dutch cycling. If they were suid other sponsors would consider withdrawing. Sponsors are sacrosanct. The riders are not."
It is viewed to be the same reason that Vinokourov is racing the big races again, including the Tour of Spain in 2009, although he tested positive which Rasmussen never did. UCI critics estimate that Vinokourov and Astana gives too much money to the sport to have him excluded for life.
It is apparently also quite arbitrary what punishment riders get for the same offense. Italian rider Riccardo Ricco was given 20 months in 2008 for testing positive for EPO, while Dutch rider Thomas Dekker got 24 months a similar offence.
Some riders have managed to make comebacks, despite their doping convictions. This applies, for example, to Ivan Basso, a former CSC-star, whose name was found during Operación Puerto in 2006 and who recieved a two years suspension. He has apologised and is racing the big races again. The Italian was number four in this year's Tour of Spain.
Also the British tempo-specialist David Millar, who in 2004 recieved a two-year suspension for using EPO, have praised the UCI anti-doping policy and speaks often and warmly about the need to use harsh means. He also runs the great races again.
"Basso and Millar were both wise and apologized. They cooperated with the UCI and have been enlisted in the Union's anti-doping campaign. This opened the door again. But if you like Michael Rasmussen have not apologized, you are not welcome back. Then you end up on a blacklist. It is obviously corrupt only to allow riders back who says sorry. " Swiss doping lawyer Antonio Rigozzi notes.
"Now the riders need to be friends with Pat McQuaid on the one side and Tour director Christian Prudhomme on the other. That's also corrupt. I do not think there will be any changes before these people are out. But nobody wants to complain about it. If they do they get in trouble. They just want to participate in the races. "
Pat McQuaid, UCI president completely denies the existence of a blacklist.
"This is bullshit. Michael Rasmussen has a letter from the UCI which says that he is welcome to race again."
Pat McQuaid says that it is not his job to decide who teams are hiring.
"But what Michael Rasmussen does not know is that he is not the only rider who is in this situation. Others have also come back from drug convictions and is finding it difficult to get a team. He needs to realize that professional bicycling has changed. Many teams do not want the negative publicity that riders with doping convictions gives them. Sport is in a different place. Michael Rasmussen should have thought about that before he began lying about his whereabouts."
The president agrees that doping-offended riders who have served their time should be allowed to run again.
"But he has no God-appointed right to get a job. Rasmussen has no right to get a contract with a team."
Pat McQuaid will not take responsibility for the fact that some doping-offended rider can return, while others can not. "You must talk with the sports directors, not me," he says.
- Michael Rasmussen has specifically mentioned two teams, as he says, you have been pressing for not recruiting him. Flaminia is the one?
"It is a total fabrication of the truth. I have never spoken or written to any of Flamimia about Michael Rasmussen. He must stop inventing stories, otherwise he will have trouble. "
"Legal trouble. If he continues accusing me of talking to the teams and ordered them not to take him, he will find himself in court very soon. "
- He also mentioned Astana. It that also a fabrication?
"Team Astana does not need to get our permission. It is totally bullshit. Michael Rasmussen's imagination is running amok."
- So you do not have a problem with seeing him back in the big races: Giro, Vuelta and Tour de France?
"No. He has a right to be there. "