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Michael Rasmussen Interview - Ecstasy to Agony
 
By Staff
Date: 7/31/2007
Michael Rasmussen Interview - Ecstasy to Agony
 

Michael Rasmussen Interview - Ecstasy to Agony
I feel truly horrible. I donít know what to say. Maybe you can compare it to having a Picasso painting stolen. I was on my way to achieve the greatest thing I am capable of, and it was taken from me.

The following is an interview done Sunday by the biggest national television channel, TV2, in Denmark. The interview lasted 25 minutes. Michael Rasmussen invited TV2 to his private home in Italy and gave his view on the matter. Today, it was aired twice in Denmark, they even interrupted the transmission from the final stage to show the interviews as well, it was aired at 8 pm primetime. Danish TV2 .


From the highest of positions to the lowest in a day. After the victory on Rasmussen's victory on stage 16 on the Col d'Aubisque. That night he was removed from the race and fired by his team. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti.

TV2: What is your opinion on the whole situation of your exclusion?

Michael Rasmussen: Itís a surrealistic situation, donít you think? I just had the greatest day of my cycling career and won on top of the Col dí Aubisque in the yellow jersey, and in reality I won Tour de France that day. Only to be kicked out of the hotel hours later.

TV2: How did that happen?

Michael Rasmussen: Well, it happened in the way that we had a meeting in the team bus, where I got the message that I was taken out of the race. Afterwards my team mates were called in and got the same message.

TV2: How did you react?

Michael Rasmussen: Well, I was in a state of shock and of course I got very angry about the decision that had been made, because I think there was nothing that could justify this decision.

TV2: I imagine you did not get much sleep that night. What thoughts went through your mind that night?

Michael Rasmussen: No, well first of all, journalists put aside all respect for invasion of privacy. They called me until 2 AM. On top of that, I had 100.000 thought going through my mind concerning what had happened and what went wrong and what the future would bring. I had just been robbed the Tour de France victory.

TV2: Were you alone that night? And where were you exactly?

MR: Actually I donít really know were I was. I know that I was driven to a country house about half an hours drive from Po, and then I was picked up the next morning, taken to the airport and on a private chartered plane to Verona.

TV2: Thatís the way Rabobank chose to send you out of the race. How do you feel about that?

MR: When it came to it, you must say that at least they had the dignity to take care of me in a way without bigger drama, at least from my side of it. But naturally there was a lot of chaos in the first couple of hours after I left the hotel. But I havenít had much to do with that.


Stage 15 Alberto Contador leads Michael Rasmussen near the finish.
Photo © www.benrossphotography.com

TV2: Your team mates, did you have any time to speak with them before you left, and how did they react?

MR: Yeah, of course I spoke with them and they where naturally frustrated about the situation, just as I was. They had been riding for so many days and had been working for me, and we had won the yellow jersey. They were devastated. It had huge consequences for them financially that we did not win the Tour de France this year.

TV2: What do you think about the way Rabobank handled this whole matter?

MR: Well, I think it is better if I donít express myself about this, as the matter will have legal consequences.

TV2: Theo de Rooij says you have admitted to him that you were in Italy during the time you should have been in Mexico. Have you?

MR: As I said, I better not express myself about that as well. It comes under your previous question.

TV2: But can you relate to and do you still claim that you were only in Mexico during the time you had stated?

MR: Again, it comes under the case that will be coming.

TV2: You can easily prove it by showing a passport and maybe stamps and plane tickets. Have you considered doing this during the case?

MR: Well, what I am saying is that now we have to see what the case brings and we will take it from there.

TV2: Personally, what do you think of Theo de Rooij and his role in this matter? You have been quite close to him.

MR: There is no doubt that he has been under an enormous pressure, and he has been accused of many things during the Tour, and at some point his facade cracked and he made this decision.

TV2: Have you spoken to him since?

MR: No I havenít. I think there are very few persons who have done that, and I know, even the team has had difficulties in contacting him the last few days.

TV2: But the team has not only suspended you, actually you have been fired. What do you think about that?

MR: Well, it looks like a bit of a rash action. I read it on teletext and then I contacted the team to get it confirmed and to get an official dismissal notice. Just to be absolutely certain of what had happened and on what basis.

TV2: So did you receive it?

MR: Yes I have.

TV2: But do you think it is an over reaction?

MR: Well, for breaking some internal rules, I think it is a very harsh reaction, especially when thinking about the fine given to me earlier as a consequence of the mistake I made.

TV2: What are you intending to do regarding Rabobank and all the row?

MR: Naturally, I have contacted a lawyer and I am meeting him next week. After that we will contact Rabobankís lawyers, and then I hope we can solve this matter in peace and toleration.

TV2: So you donít expect this to end up in the courtroom?

MR: No, I think no one will benefit from that.

TV2: Today the Tour de France ends at Champs-…lyses. What is your comment on that?

MR: I am pretty convinced its not the best rider who won Tour de France this year.

TV2: You have said winning Tour de France is your ultimate dream. Do you feel the victory has been taken from you? That the dream has not come true and that too, has been taken from you?

MR: Yes, definitely. It is no secret. Since the day I was excluded and for the rest of my life, I will wake up in the morning and remember that I didnít win the Tour the France because I was wrongfully excluded from the race.

TV2: How do you feel about having that thought? Living with it the rest of your life.

MR: I feel truly horrible. I donít know what to say. Maybe you can compare it to having a Picasso painting stolen. I was on my way to achieve the greatest thing I am capable of, and it was taken from me.

TV2: What have you done to come to terms with all this? It must have been hard for you at the time you were kicked out. Your dream was crushed. What did you do to come to terms with your expressions and all the feelings inside?

MR: Well, I have gone back to Italy to the ones closest to me, the people I know I can trust. Those are the ones I have been in contact with and it is also those who have contacted me.

TV2: Returning to the situation where you were kicked out of the Tour de France. How do you feel about the fact that de race director Prudhomme, announces that this is the best thing that could happen to the Tour de France, only one day after you had been kicked out?

MR: No question I am having a hard time understanding this. I do not know what these statements were based on.

TV2: They feel you should never have been allowed to enter the Tour the France, in connection with the row about the warnings about different anti doping  tests. But you have not tested positive in any way, so there is no case. How do you see this situation?

MR: No, it is some hypocrisy. UCI has at various times, stated that there are absolutely no motives for me not to enter the Tour de France this year. Therefore, I really cannot see why this is a problem at all.

TV2: And they also say themselves that they have put pressure on Rabobank to have you kicked out. How do you feel about that?

MR: It is highly reprehensible that a race director feels that he has the right to kick riders out of the competition and ďchooseĒ the winner himself. Meaning, if he wanted to, he could attack Contador, attack Evans and finally he would attack the red haired, so maybe a Frenchman could be on the podiumÖ

TV2: Do you think it comes down to that?

MR: I am having difficulties understanding what makes him say the things he has said.

TV2: Are you going to watch the final stage today?

MR: No, I havenít watched any Tour de France since I was on the podium myself.

TV2: Do you follow the race at all?

MR: Yeah, I know Contador is probably winning, isnít he?


The Rabobank squad rode a solid race in support of Rasmussen here on stage 14 Dekker, Boogerd, and Menchov are at the front escorting their team leader. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti.

TV2: How about your team mates, have you spoken to them after you left the Rabobank camp?

MR: Yes, I have been in contact with several of the riders.

TV2: What are they saying to all this?

MR: Well, they hate every day they sit on their bikes right now. Menchov left the race the other day in sympathy. I think that is a huge gesture coming from such a great rider. Boogerd, he left the dinner table crying the other day and he did not feel like riding his bike again.

TV2: So the whole team is taking this hard, not only you?

MR: Yes, of course. And it is not only the riders, it is also the mechanics, soigneurs and so on, they all have the Tour de France as their main goal. And it is indeed a catastrophic decision for all.

TV2: How do you feel of having the chance of winning the Tour de France taken away from you, on pure suspicions?

MR: I am having difficulties in seeing the basis of these suspicions. I have only missed being present at a certain time, and therefore I think it was a very severe decision.

TV2: But there have been doubts about your willingness to be available to the anti-doping-authorities. You are known as a perfectionist, how come you have been careless with your reports?

MR: First of all, I received two warnings from Anti Doping Denmark, who is put into this world to control athletes who are subject to DIF (Danish Athletics Association). And I am a member of Rabobank and have a license in Monaco, so I have absolutely nothing to do with DIF. So I definitely mean this is unimportant. They should not have a say in this matter. From a legal point of view they have nothing to say.

TV2: But they say you are a part of the Danish National Team, or at least until they kicked you out. So they should have the right to test you?

MR: I havenít been a part of the Danish National Team since 2004, nearly 3 years ago. A lot of Danish riders should have been on this team then, and ought to be in the ďpotĒ. I have never received any guaranties from anyone about being a part of the national team.

TV2: I have heard that you have signed a document that gives them (DCU, Danish Cycling Union) the right to test you, is that correct?

MR: No, I have absolutely not signed anything from DCU.

TV2: So you donít understand why they have involved themselves in this?

MR: No, well I might understand why they have involved themselves, but they have no right to interfere.

TV2: How do you feel about DCU, and especially Jesper Worre (director) of DCU, who partly started all this?

MR: I donít know, its an awkward case. It is remarkable that on 26th of June I receive notice of exclusion from the National Team; afterwards I was asked to attend a reception at DCUís 100 year anniversary, the day before the National Championships in Roskilde. Photos are to be taken, hands to be shaken of I donít know how many people. And the next day, they let me start at the National Championships. 14 days later, while riding the yellow jersey, they feel like announcing that I have received warnings. It is a highly remarkable situation, which easily can be taken personal.

TV2: Do you feel it is something personal, that someone has something against you?

MR: Well, the night before Thursday, it was almost 1 AM, I received a call from Jesper Worre. At that time he claimed that they were definitely not my enemy.

TV2: Do you believe that?

MR: They are definitely not my friends. One can interpret this as one likes.

TV2: But I understand you have been tested by DCU, sorry ADD I mean. The day before the National Championships, is this correct?

MR: Yes, but the test was staged by UCI. On the day of the National Championships I was tested by ADD, which was staged by DCU.

TV2: And these UCI warnings, the talk has been concerning two warnings. They exist, right?

MR: Yes they definitely do and I have not tried to deny that. The first warning goes back to March 2006, at that time we were 6 Rabobank riders who forgot to send in our information. And the 5 of us only got a friendly telephone call from UCI, asking them to send in the information as soon as possible. I received a written and registered warning from UCI. A highly remarkable special treatment of a rider.

TV2: So that is the warning you feel you should not have gotten at all, and then there is a correct warning. But still, that is only two warnings and no case was opened against you. How do you feel about that? When it comes down to it, this costs you the victory in Tour de France.

MR: Well, there are a lot of small things that should never have been out in the public, because some information is confidential. So therefore, there was no case. If I had received a third warning, a case would be opened. And then UCI could sanction me. But because there were only two, there was no sensible reason to go public. There are a lot of other riders in Denmark and on the National Team with warnings that the public knows nothing about. So once again, an remarkably special treatment has been carried out.

TV2: Doping problems are naturally on the top of the agenda within cycling, and we see that some riders were exposed, Vinokourov, Moreni during the Tour de France. So a lot of resources are used on this. Have you ever used doping?

Michael Rasmussen: No I have absolutely not. And again I must confirm that since 30th June until the moment I was kicked out, I have had 17 controls. This can only support my words.

TV2: Do you feel hounded as riders?

Michael Rasmussen: Well, of course there is a problem and there has been a problem. The problem is fought with all means. It is getting smaller, because we have a control system that works. But naturally it is obvious to anyone that the riders are treated very different from other athletes.

TV2: But what is the control system worth if the race directors of Tour de France overrule the system? And a case has not been opened.

MR: That is what makes the whole situation much more frustrating, not only for me, but for everyone. I think most lawyers or people with just a bit of education can see, that something happened here that should never have happened.

TV2: How do you think the press have handled the matter?

Michael Rasmussen: Primarily, the press has been driven by sensation-seeking, and has not narrowed the sense of criticism. As the rider in the yellow jersey, I am an easy target, and there have been shots from both left and right.

TV2: Do you feel part of a smear campaign against yourself?

MR: From some medias, yes. Others have chosen to view the matter a bit more critically.

TV2: Why do you think some have been targeting you from the moment you got the yellow jersey?

MR: The yellow jersey has been hunted for several years now, at least 10 years, lately with Landis who was kicked out. Maybe there has been some expectation from the public that the guy wearing the yellow jersey is the one to get. As I say, at war it is always the ones in front you shoot at.

TV2: Prior the Tour de France you said that this Tour would decide if you had to work for the rest of your life or you could live from the earnings you made through your sport. Will this situation throw you into financial chaos?

MR: Not at the moment, no. And a legal case has started now, the result of that will influent my financial situation.

TV2: But it is a lot of money you are missing out on. A victory like that is truly worth a lot of money, isnít it? Donít you think you will be bitter about that?

MR: Yes, but besides the financial problem, there will be some tough feelings that no money in the world can replace.

TV2: Now the legal system takes over, and we have seen that this can take a while. You are 33 years old, have you seen your last race as a professional?

MR: No, I absolutely think not. And it is not my feeling that the process will take that long.

TV2: So realistically, you think there will be a team that dares to hire you after all this?

MR: Yes, I am convinced that there are a lot of people who easily can see that mistakes have happened in this case, because a rash decision has been made.

TV2: So you think you will start at the Tour de France next year?

MR: It is probably a question that will await an answer for some time. It depends on teams available for the future.

TV2: But how far are you willing to go for a new chance in the Tour de France?

Michael Rasmussen: Well really, the Tour de France is what fascinates me as a rider. And no matter how I was treated, if I get the chance, I will do it, because itís the most prestigious race in the world as well as the most important race all season. Armstrong was also not so popular, but nevertheless he showed up seven years in a row and beat them all.

TV2: you have been riding your bike today. How can you manage it, thinking of the situation as it is at the moment?

Michael Rasmussen: I have been in a state of siege by paparazzi the last couple of days, and this morning I saw that there was no one in front of the door, so I thought there was an opportunity to get some fresh air. And to do what I love most in the world.

TV2: Did that help you think some things through?

MR: Thatís were I feel most comfortable, on my bike.

TV2: I have visited your bike shop in town. Supporting emails are pouring in. How do you feel about the support you receive from cycling people around the world?

MR: Actually, I think it is not only cycling people. Its also regular people, who easily can see, that a gigantic mistake has been made in this case.

TV2: You seem relatively serene. Have you recovered from the shock it must have been to be kicked out?

Michael Rasmussen: I will never recover from that.

Translation courtesy of Renť Madsen.

 
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