From cyclingnews.com we have the news that the organization which runs the Tour de France will not be inviting professional team Astana to compete this year.
The Astana team was given a resounding vote of no confidence on Wednesday when the Tour de France organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation, announced that the team would not be invited to any of the ASO's events. This means its star, Alberto Contador, will not be able to defend his titles in either the Tour or the upcoming Paris-Nice.
Only three days until the start of the
Epogen Amgen Tour of California and already 2008 is shaping up to be another Year O' Doping Scandal in pro peloton. Big. Sigh.
Back to cyclingnews.com for the story on why Team Astana got the cold shoulder:
Bruyneel took the general manager position with Astana this year, succeeding Marc Biver, who had taken over the squad after the Liberty Seguros manager Manuel Saiz after Saiz had been arrested in connection with Operación Puerto. When the sponsor pulled out, the Kazakh government stepped in to support its stars Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, and the team continued as Astana-Würth.
Biver, like Bruyneel, put into place anti-doping measures as well as an ethical charter for the squad, but after both Kashechkin [Ed, which he's contested based on "human rights"!] and Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping, and Matthias Kessler for testosterone in 2007, one could say the policies were ineffective. [Ed- some links added to original]
Dang. This means that Levi Leipheimer and the recently signed Chris Horner are not starting Le Tour. Dang, dang, dang.
I am a Leipheimer fan essentially by default. He's never been a flamboyant rider and it took a long time for him to make the jump from "serious contender" to "potential winner" of the big stage races. But with doping suspension after doping suspension rolling up the riders in front of him, well, we're left with Levi. And he's money, no doubt. We could use a little more brilliance and a little less wheel following on the high cols but he's the real deal.
Now Horner. Everybody loves Chris Horner. Scrappy rider. Great with the quotes. Writes a racing diary. Fun rider to follow and easy to enjoy his descriptions of the pathos of cycle racing careers. In short, I am a fan.
But I have to admit I've been wondering why, oh why, did these guys sign with Astana! I know, I know, Horner needed a ride and Levi made his deal with Bruyneel by going to Discovery. But still. The Astana backers made it clear from the get-go that they were going to hire riders and directors who were under the cloud of suspicion. Then, sure enough, they got busted with three very high profile doping positives. C'mon. Why would you think the organization has changed colors just because they've hired Bruyneel to run the show?