Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen held a press conference during the second rest day in Pau on Tuesday but despite speaking for 50 minutes, he failed to explain why he missed a string of out of competition doping tests and flatly denied ever asking American mountain biker Whitney Richards to transport blood doping products for him in 2002.

Sat with Rabobank team manager Theo De Rooy and the team?s lawyer, Rasmussen appeared apologetic but seemed desperate for the press to believe him.

?I?ve made a mistake and the UCI gave me a recorded warning for that administrative mistake. I accept that and take full responsibility for it,? he said.

?I?m sorry that the situation is coming out now while I?m wearing the yellow jersey and that it?s harming the sport I dearly love, the Tour de France and (race organiser) ASO. I want to make it absolutely clear that I?ve had out of competition test before the Tour de France and up until this morning I?ve had 14 anti-doping test during the Tour and all the results are negative. I do support my team and sponsor Rabobank in the fight against doping and a clean sport.?

?I hope that I can clarify the many stories that have been around regarding my missed test. I hope that things are clear from today and that from now on we can go on and focus in the race.?

Asked about the Whitney Richards accusations, Rasmussen was not so communicative and flatly denied that they were true.

?I have no idea why he would say anything like that. As I said in a post race press conference, I can only deny the story.?

Rasmussen clarified that he raced with a Mexican licence for two years but this year he is resident in Monaco and as under UCI rules, he races with a licence where he is resident. He also revealed that he was never tested by the Mexican Cycling Federation and has not yet been tested by the Monaco Federation.

On the same matter, the Rabobank lawyer questioned if the Danish Cycling Federation were legally right to do out of competition tests on Rasmussen if he is not a resident in Denmark. He perhaps does not realise that Rasmussen had agreed to tests as part of the requirements of being in the Danish national squad.

Rabobank team manager Theo De Rooy tried to defend the image of the team and revealed that he has fined Rasmussen 10,000 Euro (6000 pounds) for missing a UCI test in June when he was training in Mexico. He also insisted it was right for Rasmussen to take part in the Tour de France, quoting UCI president Pat McQuaid.

?Pat McQuaid said on Dutch TV last night: ?There is no reason why he cannot continue in Tour de France until Sunday.? In a statement today in the French press he also said: ?Legally he has every right to stay in race and there is no way he should be out of the race.?

?The racing between Michael and Alberto [Contador] yesterday was great for the supporters and we?ve seen some great racing throughout the Tour. It?s important that tomorrow we have a great fight and also in the final time trial.?