Tour de France race leader Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) finished safely in the middle of the peloton as Tom Boonen (Quick Step) won the sprint in Castres but his troubled began as soon as he crossed the finish line.

Following the revelations that he had been issued a warning letter by the UCI after missing two out of competition doping tests, he was grilled by the media about other missed tests and asked to explain links with a former US mountain biker and a shoebox containing bovine haemoglobin.

Rasmussen has to answer three questions as Tour de France leader and tried to explain his version of events. He admitted he had missed two UCI tests and received warning letters in March 2006 and June this year. He also admitted missing a Danish Federation test but claimed that could be because the Danish Cycling Federation use the UCI database to monitor rider?s movements and so had the same lack or mistaken information on his whereabouts.

When asked by US cycling magazine Velonews about the former mountain biker Whitney Richards and the shoebox allegedly containing haemoglobin, Rasmussen admitted he knew Richards but did not go further. He was then quickly escorted out of the press conference truck. He had tried to come up with some answer but the questions and doubts about him continue to grow.

PRE-RACE TENSION

Before the start of the stage Rasmussen needed police protection to ride to the sign on podium and start line and tried to play down the seriousness of having missed the tests.

“I feel this has been blown a little out of proportion. I can confirm I have no positive doping tests and I have been tested out of competition in June and those tests were negative. I certainly do want to continue riding the Tour de France,? he said.

“I do admit I committed an administrative error. I have already received a warning from the UCI but I am very calm and very relaxed. I have full support from the ASO (the organisers of the Tour de France) and I don’t blame the UCI, I take responsibility for not informing the UCI of my whereabouts.?

“I know a lot of riders who have received warnings for not giving updated information to the UCI. I’m just one out of many and it’s just that I happen to have the yellow jersey.”

On Thursday night, the director of the Danish Cycling Union (DCU) Jesper Worre told Danish television that Rasmussen had received a number of warnings over failing to inform doping authorities over his training whereabouts. The Danish Cycling Federation announced they had suspended Rasmussen from the Danish national team for the world championships in Stuttgart and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

In an official statement issued on Friday afternoon, the UCI confirmed that Rasmussen has received two warnings and made it clear that if he missed another he would automatically face a disciplinary hearing. Under UCI and WADA rules if a rider misses three out of competition tests they are banned from competing for 18 months.