UCI discussing allegations Rasmussen asked racer to carry doping materials
GENEVA -- The head of cycling's world governing body says it would be bad for the sport if current Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen goes on to win the race.
Standings after Stage 15
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"With all this speculation around him it would be better if somebody else were to win," UCI president Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday. "The last thing this sport needs is more speculation about doping."
McQuaid added, however, that the Danish rider has "broken no rules, so from that point of view ... you have to give him the benefit of the doubt."
Rasmussen was dropped from Denmark's national team last week for failing to notify anti-doping officials of his whereabouts for drug testing before the Tour began.
He missed two drug tests by Denmark's anti-doping agency in May and June, and failed to respond to two warnings from the International Cycling Union since April 2006. A third infraction with either the UCI or the Danish agency would be considered equivalent to a positive test and lead to a ban.
Rasmussen retained the overall lead by 2 minutes, 23 seconds over Alberto Contador of Spain after Monday's 15th stage. The Tour ends Sunday in Paris.
UCI officials, meanwhile, met Monday to discuss allegations by a former American amateur mountain bike racer that Rasmussen tried to trick him into carrying blood doping materials into Italy five years ago.
Anne Gripper, UCI's anti-doping manager, said she had received an e-mail from Whitney Richards in which he tells of "some interaction he had had with Rasmussen."
"He says he has some information he would like to pass on," Gripper told The Associated Press by telephone Monday.
She said a legal council meeting Monday had not yet resolved how to handle Richards' accusations or set a date to meet with him.
"We are just needing some further advice on the best way of obtaining the information," Gripper said. "The meeting was just to discuss the approach that we would take. We have to make some further inquiries as to the best way."
On Sunday, McQuaid said Richards' allegations would need proof, otherwise "the story might go down the drain."
Richards told The Associated Press last week that Rasmussen asked him to carry a pair of cycling shoes in March 2002 when Richards was moving to Italy. When he opened the box, Richards said he found 14 IV bags filled with human blood substitute, which he poured down the drain.
Richards decided to go public with his story after Rasmussen promised cycling fans they could trust him. Rasmussen said he was familiar with Richards' name but has declined to comment further.
Richards' allegations came one day after Rasmussen was kicked off the national team.
"The key point is that we have not opened disciplinary proceedings against Rasmussen," Gripper said. "We have sent him a warning."
Amaury Sports Organization, which owns the Tour, questioned the timing of the Rasmussen revelations midway through race.
"It effectively resembles an attempt at destabilization," ASO chief Patrice Clerc told French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday.
On Wednesday, the German cycling federation announced that T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz had tested positive for elevated testosterone at a team training camp in the French Pyrenees more than five weeks ago.
"There was no intention at all on the part of the UCI to have a negative effect on the Tour," Gripper said. "Sinkewitz is totally unrelated to the UCI. The test was conducted by a German [anti-doping] agency and the decision was made by the German [cycling] federation."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press