One-time Tour de France leader Rasmussen denies doping

Updated: July 30, 2007, 10:48 AM ET news services

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Michael Rasmussen said Sunday he has never used performance-enhancing drugs and that he would not rule out competing in next year's Tour de France.

I have never used doping. But it is as if the yellow jersey is easiest to shoot at.

Michael Rasmussen

Rasmussen, who held the yellow jersey at the Tour before being kicked out by his own team under a cloud of doping suspicions, told Danish broadcaster TV2 he has always raced clean.

"I have never used doping," the 33-year-old Dane told the station. "But it is as if the yellow jersey is easiest to shoot at."

Speaking from his home in Lazise, Italy, Rasmussen lashed out at the media, saying some journalists automatically assume that the Tour leader must be cheating.

"There is perhaps an expectation that the yellow jersey is doped," he said.

Rasmussen was expelled by the Rabobank team just hours after he won Wednesday's stage. The team said he lied about his whereabouts before the Tour. He missed random drug tests on May 8 and June 28, saying he was in Mexico. But a former rider, Davide Cassani, said he had seen Rasmussen in Italy in mid-June.

On Monday, Rabobank said it will launch an independent review of the events leading to its decision to expel Rasmussen from its Tour de France team.

However, the Dutch bank said it will not withdraw its sponsorship of cycling.

In Sunday's interview, Rasmussen again criticized his team's decision, calling it "a very violent reaction."

He did not address his whereabouts in the lead-up to the Tour.

Rasmussen said his dismissal from the race will haunt him for the rest of his life.

"Every day I'm going to wake up and think about not being allowed to win the Tour de France -- the race that defines me as a cyclist," he said. "I will never get over it. ... I believe it equals getting a Picasso painting stolen. I was working on the greatest piece I could achieve and it was taken away from me."

Despite his forced exit, Rasmussen said he was ready to enter cycling's premier event again next year.

"If the chance to ride the Tour de France in 2008 pops up, I will definitely line up," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.