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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Leader Rasmussen pulled from Tour
Michael Rasmussen
Rasmussen had been in yellow for 10 days
Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen has been sacked by his Rabobank team and withdrawn from the Tour de France.

The Dane, 33, has been at the centre of controversy since it was revealed he missed out-of-competition drugs tests.

Rabobank believe he lied to them about his whereabouts in June, saying he was in Mexico when he was in fact in Italy.

But Rasmussen told Danish tabloid BT: "I was not in Italy. That's the story of one man who believes he recognised me. There is no hint of evidence."

Rasmussen looked odds-on to win the Tour after taking Wednesday's stage and increasing his lead over second-placed rider Alberto Contador.

Young Spaniard Contador now assumes the race lead with four days remaining.

And the Discovery Channel rider went into Thursday's flat stage from Pau to Castelsarrasin with an advantage of one minute 57 seconds over Australian Cadel Evans.

Contador's team-mate Levi Leipheimer, who finished stage 16 second to Rasmussen, is third, two minutes 49 seconds off top spot.

Rasmussen's sacking follows the high-profile positive drugs test on pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov in a dramatic 24 hours for the Tour.

Rasmussen's flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable

Christian Prudhomme
Tour de France director

Vinokourov's Astana team were asked to withdraw from the race and Cofidis voluntarily pulled out following the positive test on their rider, Cristian Moreni.

Rasmussen admitted making a mistake in missing four out-of-competition drugs tests but insisted he backed moves to make cycling drug-free.

As part of Tour de France policy, the race leader is tested after each stage and Rasmussen has worn yellow since his breakaway win in Tignes last Sunday.

And Wednesday's victory on the Col d'Aubisque seemed to tighten his grip on the yellow jersey.

I can only applaud - it's a zero-tolerance policy and it's a lesson for the future

UCI president Pat McQuiad's verdict on Rabobank's decision

But, following the stage, Rabobank officials announced they had discovered Rasmussen lied to them over where he was and what he was doing during the month of June.

"Michael Rasmussen has been sent home for violating the team's internal rules," confirmed a Rabobank spokesman.

The Danish Cycling Union said last week Rasmussen had been warned for missing two random controls earlier this year and had banned him from September's world championships and the 2008 Olympic Games.

It later emerged he had already been warned twice by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for missing two separate random tests in the past 18 months.

Rabobank manager Theo de Rooy, who was aware of the missed tests, fined Rasmussen 10,000 Euros (6,720) at the time.

606: DEBATE
TheInvigilator

International Cycling Union chief Pat McQuaid said: "My immediate reaction is why didn't they do this at the end of June, when they had the same information?

"The team decided to pull him out - that's their prerogative. I can only applaud that. It's a zero-tolerance policy and it's a lesson for the future."

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: "The important thing is not that he has been sacked by his team but that he will not be at the start of the [next] stage.

"We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable.

"I at the very least do not feel that I have been dishonoured.

"One cannot mock the Tour de France impunitively like those riders," he added, referring to Rasmussen, Moreni and Vinokourov.

T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz crashed out of the race in stage eight days before he was revealed to have failed a drug test in training before the race began.


Provisional Tour de France top five:
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery 76 hours 18 mins 25 secs
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto @ 1 min 57 secs
3. Levi Leipheimer (US) Discovery @ 2 mins 49 secs
4. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC @ 6 mins 2 secs
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel @ 6 mins 29 secs



SEE ALSO
Where now for cycling?
26 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Rasmussen powers to mountain win
25 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Tour hit by fresh doping failure
25 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Petacchi attends doping hearing
24 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Rider failed pre-Tour drugs test
18 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Rasmussen climbs into Tour lead
15 Jul 07 |  Cycling


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