Whitney Richards told VeloNews that in March of 2002, Rasmussen asked him to transport a box containing cycling shoes. But the shoebox, according to Richards, actually contained bags of an American-made human blood substitute.
In an effort to fit all his belongings in his luggage, Richards opened the box to discard it and just bring the shoes - he said he then discovered the bags.
"I was blown away," Richards told VeloNews. "This wasn't a pair of Sidis ... it was frickin' dog medicine or something."
According to labels, the bags were filled with a hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC) known as Hemopure, manufactured by the U.S.-based Biopure Corporation. The product is made from hemoglobin molecules that have been removed from the red cells of cow's blood.
"The nerve of the guy," Richards added. "Not only is he a drug cheat, but he didn't give a damn about anybody else. He was willing to put me out there to carry that crap through customs ... into Italy at a time when they were investigating Dr. [Michele] Ferrari and people were lobbing accusations at Lance Armstrong. Think about what it would have been like for Italian customs to catch an American with a bunch of bike gear and cow's blood at the border."