Team Fires Tour de France Leader Rasmussen

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Who's Left Standing?

Click for a larger interactive map of the Tour de France route. hide caption

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Two major teams have withdrawn from the Tour de France in the past two days after their riders failed drug tests.

And then, late Wednesday, another bombshell: Michael Rasmussen, the man who was leading the Tour, was fired by his team.

Rasmussen was taken out of the race by the Rabobank team after questions arose about his whereabouts when he was unavailable for doping exams earlier this year.

Rasmussen won Wednesday's stage and had looked set to win the race, which ends Sunday.

Earlier Wednesday, cyclists from eight French and German teams sat out the start of stage 16.

They said they delayed their start to protest the drug abuse in their sport.

Leader Rasmussen Out of Tour De France

Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark has been removed from the race, a devastating blow to cycling's premier event which has been rocked by a series of doping scandals.

"Michael Rasmussen has been sent home for violating (the team's) internal rules," Rabobank team spokesman Jacob Bergsma told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday.

The expulsion, which Bergsma said was ordered by the Dutch team sponsor, was linked to "incorrect" information that Rasmussen gave to the team's sports director over his whereabouts last month. Rasmussen missed random drug tests May 8 and June 28.

The 33-year-old rider, who won Wednesday's stage, had looked set to win the race, which ends Sunday in Paris. But Tour officials questioned why he was allowed to take the start on July 7 in London, England.

"We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told the AP.

The leader of cycling's governing body applauded the decision.

"My immediate reaction is, why didn't they do this at the end of June, when they had the same information," Pat McQuaid said. "The team decided to pull him out; that's their prerogative. I can only applaud that. It's a zero-tolerance policy, and it's a lesson for the future."

With Rasmussen out, Spanish rider Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team would move into the race lead.



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