Vogelzang report: Rasmussen should not have been allowed to start at the Tour

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12.11.2007/ Today the report of the Vogelzang committee was presented during a press conference in Utrecht, Netherlands. The committee investigated the Rasmussen case and concluded that Rasmussen should not have been allowed to start at the Tour. The team management and especially former team manager Theo De Rooij was critized by the committee. The investigators also critized the UCI for not acting by their own rules.

Copyright Heinz Zwicky
Michael Rasmussen won at the Aubisque (picture: Heinz Zwicky)

The Executive Board of Rabobank Nederland commissioned the Vogelzang Committee to carry out an independent investigation into the events and facts before, during and briefly after the Tour de France 2007. 
The reason for this investigation was the expulsion of Rasmussen from the Tour de France on 25 July 2007 and his subsequent dismissal. Theo de Rooij then decided to step down as General Managing Director of Rabo Cycling Teams on  August 3, 2007.

On Thursday, Michael Rasmussen admitted to have lied to the public but insisted that the Rabobank team knew about his whereabouts. The report shows that Rasmussen's claim that the Rabobank team knew about his real whereabouts, was at least partly true. According to the report, the committee became "conflicting reports" from members of the board of directors of the Rabo cycling Team about the question if they knew that Rasmussen was not in Mexico. But the Vogelzang report also says: "The rider claims that he incorrectly stated his whereabouts due to private reasons. The Committee does not deem this explanation to be credible."

In a press relase of sponsor Rabobank, the bank stated that: "The Committee is convinced that Rasmussen should not have been permitted to start in the Tour de France based on the information that was known to the Board of Directors of Rabo Cycling Teams. The Committee concludes that the Board of Directors of Rabo Cycling Teams in general and its Chairman Theo de Rooij in particular did not adequately assess the importance of multiple signs concerning Rasmussen’s conduct prior to the Tour '07. The Board of Directors also failed to inform the Supervisory Board of Rabo Cycling Teams promptly and comprehensively. The Board of Directors hence endangered the reputation of both Rabo Cycling Teams and Rabobank. The Committee has not, however, till now been presented with any evidence that would suggest unethical conduct or a lack of integrity on the part of the cycling team’s Board of Directors or medical supervision staff."

The Committee is of the opinion that the International Cycling Union (UCI) failed to act with sufficient unambiguousness, vigorousness and credibility. In the report the commission says about the enforcement of rules: "  The UCI does not apply its own sanction measures and as a result it loses its credibility." In the press release of sponsor Rabobank, the bank stated that: "The UCI must attain a higher level of professionalism with regard to the formulation, enforcement and monitoring of its own doping regulations." The press release continued with: "It is also crucial to find a system of availability that constitutes less of an invasion of privacy from the viewpoint of riders. The UCI and the national federations should also form one unified front in order to prevent incidents of legal inequality." 

The pressrelease concluded with: "In closing, the Committee finds that the process of gathering, processing and verifying the whereabouts information within Rabo Cycling Teams must be improved. Verification of the whereabouts information by the Board of Directors should form a standard part of a transparent culture within Rabo Cycling Teams."

In a second press release sponsor Rabobank agreed with the main points of the Vogelzang report: "The report is critical and extremely thorough. It clearly states that the Board of Directors of Rabo Cycling Teams rightly decided to remove Rasmussen from the Tour de France," says Piet van Schijndel, member of the Executive Board of Rabobank responsible for the cycling sponsorship. He concurs with the main points of the conclusions and recommendations of the Vogelzang committee of inquiry.

In connection with the report, Rabobank has requested the members of the Supervisory Board of Rabo Cycling Teams to discuss the Vogelzang Committee’s findings with the UCI. Rabobank assumes that the UCI will seriously peruse and act on the findings and recommendations of the Vogelzang committee. It is imperative that this report not be shelved. 

Van Schijndel noted that, "The Vogelzang Committee comments that the Supervisory Board may have insufficiently supervised the Board of Directors' approach to issues such as reputation and integrity. I would like to point out that the Supervisory Board operates according to the principle of 'supervision from a distance', which is sometimes also called the chalk line policy. This means the statutory directors have a large degree of independent responsibility. The Committee also puts forward that this is an effective and accepted system of governance. This does not, however, detract from the fact that the Supervisory Directors should heed this comment in order to raise awareness of reputation and integrity issues within the operations of Rabo Cycling Teams."

The report is critical regarding the actions of the Board of Directors before and during the Tour de France. Serious errors of judgement were clearly made, primarily by the Chairman of the Board of Directors (Theo De Rooij). When viewed from this perspective, the Chairman's decision shortly after the Tour to accept responsibility for the consequences ensuing from the resulting crisis is a respectable one. 

The Board of Directors actually knew before the Tour de France that some matters were not being handled properly. Rabobank agrees with the Vogelzang Committee that the Board of Directors made an error of judgement by not revealing this information and by not immediately disclosing this information to the Supervisory Board of Rabo Wielerploegen B.V. It is patently obvious from the information known now that Rasmussen should not have been allowed to start in the Tour de France.

With regard to the next steps to be taken, Van Schijndel concluded: "We have requested the Supervisory Board to discuss the committee's recommendations with the Board of Directors. The interim manager who was appointed following the resignation of the Chairman of the Board of Directors has already begun to implement changes to the operations together with the Board of Directors in anticipation of the publication of this report. The aim is for the Board of Directors to provide a clear overview of the changes that have been made to the operations as a result of this report by the end of this year. This will include modifications to matters such as the approach to dealing with whereabouts and changes to the way the medical supervision is organised."

The full Vogelzang committee report about the Rasmussen case in PDF format:

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