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Tour Leader Rasmussen Sacked, Out of Race
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The Dane will not start Thursday's 17th stage after his team said the rider had lied about his training whereabouts in June. "He has violated the team's rules," a Rabobank spokesman said.

Fellow team members gathered late on Wednesday to decide whether to continue the Tour but the meeting broke up without any statement.

Meanwhile, witnesses reported seeing police raiding the hotel of the Rabobank team in Pau, the start of Thursday's stage.

Rasmussen's dismissal is the latest and possibly biggest hammer-blow to the Tour's credibility following hard on the heels of positive dope tests on pre-race favourite Alexander Vinokourov and Italy's Cristian Moreni.

Rasmussen, 33, had already received two warnings from the UCI for failing to provide the sport's governing body with his personal schedule.

UCI president Pat McQuaid told Reuters by phone: "I wonder why they did not make the decision when they had all the information in June. However, it is a zero tolerance policy and I can only applaud it."

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


Rabobank director Theo de Rooy was quoted on Dutch TV as saying: "Several times he said where he was training and it proved to be wrong. The management of the team received that information several times and today we received new information."

The team said the Dane had told them he was in Mexico when he had in fact been in Italy.

Rabobank said in statement late on Wednesday: "Rabobank is shocked and enormously disappointed that Rasmussen has lied about his whereabouts."

"Wrongly reporting whereabouts is a flagrant violation of UCI rules and is unacceptable," the bank said.

The bank added that its board supported the decision to take Rasmussen off the race and to dismiss him.

"Rabobank understands that the morale of the team has suffered and that the cyclists at this moment cannot decide whether or not to start tomorrow."

It said the development was "a dark page" in the history of the team.

"Rabobank at this point does not plan to withdraw from cycling," the bank said, adding it would discuss the situation.

"What happened leaves me speechless. I am lost for words. A nightmare," board member Piet van Schijndel said in the statement.

Rasmussen was already under a cloud after being dropped from the Danish national team over failing to report his whereabouts in training.

On Wednesday, he was jeered by the crowd at the start but replied by winning the stage and extending his overall lead to three minutes 10 seconds.

Factbox of Danish rider Michael Rasmussen 

Born: June 1, 1974 in Copenhagen

Team: Rabobank

Height: 1.75 metres. Weight: 60 kilos

*After a successful career in mountain biking, Rasmussen made the transition to the road in 2002.

*He joined Danish team CSC but could not adjust to the methods of manager and 1996 Tour champion Bjarne Riis.

*In 2003, a stage win in the Tour of Burgos convinced Dutch outfit Rabobank to hire his services and the Dane, dubbed "chicken" by his team mates for his long, skinny legs and sharp features, rewarded his employer with a stage win in the Spanish Vuelta.

*His climbing abilities were evident when he won a stage and the mountains classification in the 2004 Dauphine Libere before finishing 14th in the Tour de France.

*Took the ninth stage of the 2005 Tour between Gerardmer and Mulhouse and became the first Dane to win the race's mountains classification, shrugging off an embarrassing performance in the time trial on the penultimate stage.

*Won the 16th stage of the 2006 Tour from Bourg d'Oisans to La Toussuire after an impressive solo effort to grab his second polka-dot jersey in succession.

*Won the eighth stage of the 2007 Tour last Sunday. With the victory he took the yellow jersey and the lead in the climbers' standings. Won again on Wednesday but was sacked by Rabobank for lying about whereabouts in pre-Tour test period. Previously dropped from Danish national team over same issue.

(China Daily via Reuters July 26, 2007)

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