Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Tour won't relent on Astana ban despite Giro decision
PARIS -- Tour de France organizers will stick by their ruling to bar 2007 champion Alberto Contador and his Astana team from this year's race despite the Giro d'Italia's decision to let them enter the Italian event.
Italian organizers changed their minds last week and afforded Contador's team a spot in the Giro, which starts Saturday.
But the Amaury Sport Organization, which owns the Tour de France and other stage races including Paris-Nice, said Tuesday it will not change its decision to bar the team from all its events in 2008 following a series of doping violations.
"Our management took a decision. We will wait for one year," ASO spokesman Christophe Marchadier said. "One year to wait and see, and we will have another look next year."
ASO excluded Astana because of serious doping violations at the last two Tours.
Last year, Alexandre Vinokourov was caught blood-doping during the race and Andrej Kashechkin tested positive for the same offense in an out-of-competition test in Turkey a month later.
In 2006, several riders on the team -- then known as Liberty Seguros -- were kicked out on the eve of the Tour after being linked to the Operation Puerto blood-doping scandal in Spain.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Astana sporting director Johan Bruyneel called ASO's decision "extremely unfair, illogical, ridiculous and arrogant," saying other doping-tainted teams did not receive similar punishment.
Astana's riders also include former Tour runner-up Andreas Kloeden and Levi Leipheimer. The team is scheduled to take part in the Spanish Vuelta, which begins Aug. 30.
Contador joined the Kazakhstan-backed Astana team in October after his previous team, Discovery Channel, disbanded.