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Rabobank team to carry on in Tour

  • Story Highlights
  • Rabobank announce that they will continue in the Tour de France
  • They had sacked race leader Michael Rasmussen on Wednesday night
  • Team learnt that Rasmussen lied to them over what he was up to during June
  • Latest doping scandal comes as organizers try to repair sport's reputation
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COL D'AUBISQUE, France (Reuters) -- The Rabobank team will continue in the Tour de France despite rider Michael Rasmussen's eviction from the squad, their sporting director announced on Thursday.

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Rasmussen crosses the line alone to win stage 16 before his sensational sacking by Rabobank.

"All our riders (minus Rasmussen) will be on the start of the stage," Erik Breukink said.

Rasmussen was sacked by his team late on Wednesday for lying about his training whereabouts. The Dane had told Rabobank he was training in Mexico in June but was reported as actually being in Italy.

"He has violated the team's rules," a team spokesman said on Wednesday.

Rasmussen, however, denied being in Italy.

"I am shattered," he told Danish tabloid BT. "I am on the verge of tears. I was not in Italy. Not at all.

"That's the story of one man who believes he recognized me. There is no hint of evidence."

Rasmussen had received two warnings from the International Cycling Union (UCI) for failing to provide the sport's governing body with his personal schedule. Riders must do so in order that random doping tests can be conducted.

He was booed and jeered by angry fans before and during Wednesday's 16th stage, which he won.

The 33-year-old Dane had seemed to weather the initial storm after not making himself available for four doping tests in the past 18 months Wednesday's stage win had all but sealed overall victory.

However, the team concluded that Rasmussen lied to them over his whereabouts during the month of June because he was in Italy and not in Mexico as he had told them.

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 stage tomorrow."

Rabobank director Theo de Rooy said: "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."

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

Following Thursday's stage, Rabobank revealed they are to reconsider their involvement in the sport.

"We always reconsider if something big is happening and this is big," Helen Crielaard, head of sponsorship at Rabobank, revealed.

"We have to reconsider once we get all the facts. Maybe we will change the way we are involved," said Crielaard, who added that Rabobank also sponsored the sport at a local level in the Netherlands which would certainly continue

"At this point there is no reason to just finish our sponsorship. But we can not go on like this for 10 years if doesn't get better.

"It is a bad day for us and it's very sad. Yesterday we thought we could be winning the Tour de France," Crielaard added.

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"This shows there is chaos in cycling, but it also shows that people are working hard to try and clean up the sport. The fact that it was us who decided to withdraw Rasmussen sends a strong message that we don't like cheaters.

"I think this decision is not directly linked to doping. He has not been tested positive. But if you are trying to clean up cycling then you have to make strong rules and make sure that they are followed, especially by your own team." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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