Michael Rasmussen retires and admits doping over a fourteen year timeframe
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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Michael Rasmussen retires and admits doping over a fourteen year timeframe

by Shane Stokes at 10:23 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Substantial cooperation results in reduced ban of two years, wants to return as directeur sportif

Michael RasmussenLooking fragile and nervous in today’s press conference in Herning, Michael Rasmussen confirmed after many years of denial that he did indeed use a variety of banned substances for most of his career and that he was retiring with immediate effect from the sport.

The 38 year old Danish rider admitted breaking anti-doping rules between 1998 and 2010, a timespan which saw him win the 1999 mountain bike cross country world championship, as well as four Tour de France stages plus two King of the Mountains titles in the race.

“I have availed myself of doping substances and methods in the period 1998-2010, namely EPO, growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, insulin, IGF-1, cortisone and blood transfusions,” he said today, speaking to a packed room.

Rasmussen said that he had already spoke to anti-doping authorities, sharing information with Anti-Doping Denmark, WADA and the national anti-doping agencies of the Netherlands and the USA.

“The anti-doping authorities have been given the specifics of when and how I used,” he said. “My agreement with them is based on an agreement of confidentiality, which means that I cannot disclose further details at this time. That time may come later.

“I am well aware that I have cheated, I lied and I deceived people and other athletes. I am prepared to put that right and to take my punishment.”

Calling its own press conference afterwards, Anti-Doping Denmark confirmed that Rasmussen had contacted them of his own volition, gave important information to them and helped show the difficult world that riders had to face. They have confirmed that while he would be eligible for an eight year ban as a second offence, that they are seeking a penalty of just two years because of his cooperation.

Christina Watches Onfone team wants him back:

Speaking immediately before Rasmussen read out his statement, team manager Claus Hembo gave his own prepared thoughts and asserted that the sport still has a doping problem which needs to be corrected before clean teams can have a real fighting chance.

He insisted that Christina Watches Onfone wanted to do things in the correct way, but that it needed to be patient at this point in time. “We have reached the conclusion that our ambition of creating a big team cannot be realised in the present ‘environment,’ where doping is common and recognised. We think, that doping is – and still will be – a widespread phenomenon in international top cycling.

“Unless a final battle and rejection against doping is made, we think that a lot of riders in professional cycling will continue to dope, and that clean teams won’t have a chance to go to the top. This battle has started, and this we won’t just join – we want to go in front.”

He said that Rasmussen doped until 2010 but insisted that he had been clean since moving to the team in 2011. He said that his decision to come forward now was fully supported by the team, and was taken in order to try to help the sport have a better future.

“The standard must be, that you are absolutely free of doping,” he continued. “The standard must be that you do not use doping, and that if you suspect a competitor to be doped, that you don’t keep silent. That you share your suspicion with the responsible authorities, who can then check the claims.”

His wife, team owner Christina Hembo, gave her own thoughts on the matter. She was involved as a personal sponsor to Rasmussen in the past, at one point offering to pay his salary if Bjarne Riis’s Saxo Bank team agreed to take him on, then set up the structure around him after Riis turned him down.

“Michael Rasmussen has put every card on the table – every – and by doing this has done what he can to ensure that cycling will forever be different. That it can be a place where every mother can send her child to a cycling club without concerns. A place where every mother can be proud when her child pulls a professional jersey over his head, and where all of us, who love cycling, can watch, without always having a nagging suspicion … ‘is our hero riding without the use of illegal substances?’.”

Rasmussen will now take a step back from the sport and will serve out his ban. He had previously said that he intended being a directeur sportif after his retirement and still has that in mind.

“Our captain is checking out. Michael Rasmussen has done his last race,” confirmed Claus Hembo. “A big star who has given us a lot of big moments with the team, he will immediately stop all of his actions with and within our team.

“We will welcome him back when his sanction is served, but then as a sports director with Christina Watches – Onfone powered by DANA. With a cleaned conscience, and as a man who strongly dissociates himself from doping, and who will forever obligate himself to be of service to the authorities in the front line of the battle against doping.”

Rasmussen will give a television interview to Danish media later today, but appears set to hold off on many details while the anti-doping authorities are investigating his testimony.

He has long appeared to be someone under great strain, saying in 2007 that he considered harming himself when he was ejected from the Tour. He believes that today’s confession is essential to his peace of mind going forward.

“I want to express my enormous gratitude to Christina and Claus, as they have been fantastic both in the construction of the team, but in especially in the recent very difficult time which my family and I have lived through. I are deeply indebted to them both,” he said, bringing his statement to an end.

“When I get up and go out from this room, it’s as a relieved man. So I no longer bear the burden that has weighed on me for many years. And I'm glad not to have to lie anymore.”


The full statements from today’s press conference are as follows:


Michael Rasmussen:

I announce that I have from today have set aside my cycling career as an active cyclist.

The reason for this is that I have chosen to cooperate with the relevant anti-doping authorities to help solve cycling’s most serious crisis ever.

The relevant authorities in my case are: ADD, which is Anti-Doping Denmark, WADA, which the World Anti-Doping Organization, and the doping authorities respectively of the Netherlands and the USA.

The consequence of my cooperation will result in a suspension according to their wishes, which I am ready to receive.

I have availed myself of doping substances and methods in the period 1998-2010, namely EPO, growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, insulin, IGF-1, cortisone and blood transfusions.

The anti-doping authorities have been given the specifics of when and how I used. My agreement with them is based on an agreement of confidentiality, which means that I cannot disclose further details at this time. That time may come later.

I am well aware that I have cheated, I lied and I deceived people and other athletes. I am prepared to put that right and to take my punishment.

At the same time, I want to express my enormous gratitude to Christina and Claus, as they have been fantastic both in the construction of the team, but in especially in the recent very difficult time which my family and I have lived through. I are deeply indebted to them both.

When I get up and go out from this room, it’s as a relieved man. So I bear no longer the burden that has weighed on me for many years.

And I'm glad not to have to lie anymore. I want to thank my fans of many years, for the enormous support and to thank you for coming today.”


Christina Hembo, team owner:

“The abovementioned cooperation against doping has been received with great gratitude from relevant authorities and with great appreciation to our team and captain. Michael Rasmussen has put every card on the table – every – and by doing this has done what he can to ensure that cycling will forever be different. That it can be a place where every mother can send her child to a cycling club without concerns. A place where every mother can be proud when her child pulls a professional jersey over his head, and where all of us, who love cycling, can watch, without always having a nagging suspicion … ‘is our hero riding without the use of illegal substances?’

No parent should have to accept or see doping in any sport. Sport is something that should be made to support and promote health.

“A clean sport of cycling is what this team wants and wishes. And such a clean sport is what Michael Rasmussen wants and wishes.”


Claus Hembo, general manager:

The final battle with – and rejection from – the past is necessary for a new future.

As everybody will have noticed, a lot of things are going on in international cycling these days. Michael Rasmussen and ourselves agree – and have always been agreeing – that this team should be established on healthy values; that is as a CLEAN team with absolutely no doping. A policy that has been followed with no exceptions. At the same time we still have big dreams of creating a real high class – and high category – team.

Everybody who follows international cycling must have noted that, unfortunately, one doping case turns up after the other, again and again. And every time you think that unfortunately, most likely, it is not the last time.

We have reached the conclusion that our ambition of creating a big team cannot be realised in the present ‘environment,’ where doping is common and recognised. We think, that doping is – and still will be – a widespread phenomenon in international top cycling.

Unless a final battle and rejection against doping is made, we think that a lot of riders in professional cycling will continue to dope, and that clean teams won’t have a chance to go to the top. This battle has started, and this we won’t just join – we want to go in front.

We think that you have to motivate riders who have been part of doping in cycling to come forward with their knowledge, so that you can unravel a sick system.

We think that, once and for all, it is necessary to break the ”law of silence”. It must not be standard practice any more to CHEAT.

The standard must be, that you are absolutely free of doping. The standard must be that you do not use doping, and that if you suspect a competitor to be doped, that you don’t keep silent. That you share your suspicion with the responsible authorities, who can then check the claims.

As a young and non-doped athlete, Michael Rasmussen had the achievement of being measured with the highest watts per kilo performance in Denmark. He achieved being third at the world championship for junior riders. Clearly he was one of the world best cyclists. But then Michael fell into the pot with bad stuff.

Let me say it clearly; Michael Rasmussen has been doped without significant breaks during the period; 1998 to spring 2010.

These actions are ones that the sponsors behind this team, Onfone, DANA and Christina Watches, strongly dissociate themselves from.

The ongoing battle in cycling and rejection of doping is supported 100% by Michael Rasmussen. Since the beginning of Christina Watches – Onfone powered by DANA, Michael Rasmussen has been a clean rider.

Because Michael Rasmussen wants a clean sport of cycling, Michael has been in contact with relevant anti doping authorities, to be part of the final battle and rejection against doping. A battle and rejection that everyone can see is absolutely necessary.

Michael Rasmussen has offered to tell the anti-doping authorities everything he has experienced during this time and with whom he has experienced it. Michael’s cooperation with the anti doping authorities is absolutely and unconditionally backed up by the team.

We think, that Michael Rasmussen can be a great part of the key to the battle against doping – a man who can be an important brick in creating a new future. Michael Rasmussen wishes to be part of a clean and unblemished future, and to do that, a battle with and rejection of the past is necessary.

We are running – and has always been running – a clean team, which has been strictly enforced by Michael Rasmussen and the management of our team. Now – due to the initiative of Michael Rasmussen – we will play our part in realising a new standard in which clean teams race against each other on equal terms.

In a planned truth commission (under WADA) it is discussed whether rules can be changed, so that it will be possible to give amnesty for athletes who contributes to a clean sport. It is my opinion that only a few will accept sanctions if sanctions can be avoided only by keeping silent. Therefore it is also my opinion that a general amnesty for former sinners will be a great help to avoid new ones.

But for now, Michael Rasmussen’s helping hand to the authorities and help in clearing up the sins of the past is not without cost. Therefore Michael Rasmussen has accepted the sanction offered by relevant authorities under the current rules. Onfone, DANA and Christina Watches fully support the sanction given by the authorities to Michael Rasmussen.

Therefore, our captain is checking out. Michael Rasmussen has done his last race. A big star who has given us a lot of big moments with the team, he will immediately stop all of his actions with and within our team. We thank Michael for his efforts in building up the next biggest cycling team in Denmark.

We will welcome him back when his sanction is served, but then as a sports director with Christina Watches – Onfone powered by DANA. With a cleaned conscience, and as a man who strongly dissociates himself from doping, and who will forever obligate himself to be of service to the authorities in the front line of the battle against doping.

As mentioned above, Onfone, DANA and Christina Watches – Onfone clearly wants to dissociate from the acts of Michael Rasmussen during his past. But we also credit his courage shown now by putting himself in front of the battle against doping while at the same time accepting his sanction, having been a part of the problem.

Onfone, DANA and Christina Watches are all fully behind this team now and in the future, and our three companies all back up the values and principles of clean cycling that this team is build upon. We want this team to be the world’s best Continental team. And we want to be in front of the fight against doping.

Michael Rasmussen is cleaning up the sport of cycling. In all of our opinions, it is the only - and absolutely the correct - thing to do.

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