UCI discussing allegations Rasmussen asked racer to carry doping materials

GENEVA -- The head of cycling's world governing body says it
would be bad for the sport if current Tour de France leader Michael
Rasmussen goes on to win the race.

"With all this speculation around him it would be better if
somebody else were to win," UCI president Pat McQuaid told The
Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday. "The last thing
this sport needs is more speculation about doping."

McQuaid added, however, that the Danish rider has "broken no
rules, so from that point of view ... you have to give him the
benefit of the doubt."

Rasmussen was dropped from Denmark's national team last week for
failing to notify anti-doping officials of his whereabouts for drug
testing before the Tour began.

He missed two drug tests by Denmark's anti-doping agency in May
and June, and failed to respond to two warnings from the
International Cycling Union since April 2006. A third infraction
with either the UCI or the Danish agency would be considered
equivalent to a positive test and lead to a ban.

Rasmussen retained the overall lead by 2 minutes, 23 seconds
over Alberto Contador of Spain after Monday's 15th stage. The Tour
ends Sunday in Paris.

UCI officials, meanwhile, met Monday to discuss allegations by a
former American amateur mountain bike racer that Rasmussen tried to
trick him into carrying blood doping materials into Italy five
years ago.

Anne Gripper, UCI's anti-doping manager, said she had received
an e-mail from Whitney Richards in which he tells of "some
interaction he had had with Rasmussen."

"He says he has some information he would like to pass on,"
Gripper told The Associated Press by telephone Monday.

She said a legal council meeting Monday had not yet resolved how
to handle Richards' accusations or set a date to meet with him.
"We are just needing some further advice on the best way of
obtaining the information," Gripper said. "The meeting was just
to discuss the approach that we would take. We have to make some
further inquiries as to the best way."

On Sunday, McQuaid said Richards' allegations would need proof,
otherwise "the story might go down the drain."

Richards told The Associated Press last week that Rasmussen
asked him to carry a pair of cycling shoes in March 2002 when
Richards was moving to Italy. When he opened the box, Richards said
he found 14 IV bags filled with human blood substitute, which he
poured down the drain.

Richards decided to go public with his story after Rasmussen
promised cycling fans they could trust him. Rasmussen said he was
familiar with Richards' name but has declined to comment further.

Richards' allegations came one day after Rasmussen was kicked
off the national team.

"The key point is that we have not opened disciplinary
proceedings against Rasmussen," Gripper said. "We have sent him a

Amaury Sports Organization, which owns the Tour, questioned the
timing of the Rasmussen revelations midway through race.

"It effectively resembles an attempt at destabilization," ASO
chief Patrice Clerc told French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the German cycling federation announced that
T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz had tested positive for elevated
testosterone at a team training camp in the French Pyrenees more
than five weeks ago.

"There was no intention at all on the part of the UCI to have a
negative effect on the Tour," Gripper said. "Sinkewitz is totally
unrelated to the UCI. The test was conducted by a German
[anti-doping] agency and the decision was made by the German
[cycling] federation."