It’s the big news today in cycling – the ASO says the Astana team will not be invited to any of their events – including the Tour de France. Given that none of the team’s riders or management have been found guilty of any doping offence, nor are under investigation, and considering last year’s winner and 3rd place finisher ride for Astana, it’s a shocker. Here’s Team Astana’s official response…
Press Release From Team Astana – February 13, 2008
With surprise, disbelief, incomprehension, but dignity as well, Astana Cycling Team has been informed by the press of the non selection of the team for the races of ASO, including Tour de France 2008.
“Since breaking with the ProTour, Tour de France is free to issue its own invitations. After the non selection for the Tour of Italy, we knew that there would be a chance that ASO as well could consider not to invite us”, says Team Manager Johan Bruyneel. “The Giro argument, that we do not come to the race with our best riders, is no longer valid. With Tour number one and three of last year, Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer, and with two times runner up Andreas Klцden, we maybe have a too strong team now?”
“That the happenings of last year in Tour de France, prompted the Tour organizers to leave Astana out of the season’s most important race, sounds understandable. However, Astana Cycling Team 2008 has nothing to do with the team of last year. We have done everything to change the dynamics of the team. New management, new riders, new philosophy. Only the name of the sponsor remained. The Kazakh authorities gave me “carte blanche” to run the team. No pressure was put on us, there was no demand for big wins. We are spending 460,000 euros on internal anti-doping efforts for 2008. What more can we do? The fact that UCI accorded us a ProTour license proved that our new system functioned well. Maybe that is a part of the problem. Is Astana this year a victim of the war between UCI and ASO?”
“ASO asked us in december open communication. We communicated al lot but never got a reply. ASO has probably the right not to invite us”, continues the Team Manager. “They want to augment the credibility of their races after the happenings of last years. Unfortunately, Tour the France will lose now much of its credibility by not letting participate some of world’s best riders, who even were never were implied in doping scandals. The name of Alberto Contador was sometimes linked to the famous Puerto affair. A Spanish judge cleared him. Even afterwards, Alberto was always available for justice to give required information. He really has nothing to do with that sad affair.”
Sports Director Alain Gallopin: “We cannot force anything. It is probably impossible to appeal against their decision. We will prove in other races that we are left home unjustly. It is better to know early than late that we cannot participate. There are still other races on the cycling calendar. I am disappointed for Alberto. Now I need to make soon a new programme for the riders and staff and go forward.”
“What strange is”, says Johan Bruyneel. ASO does not invite us because of the past of a team that had the same name. Many other teams, with a similar suspicious past, that even did not change management or structure, can participate without problems. Where is the consistency? Is Tour the France not loosing all credibility now?”
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is deeply disappointed. After the 4th stage in te Tour of Mallorca, a stage he dominated, he declared with tears in his eyes :“The last weeks I never thought that it would be possible not to do the Tour the France. It is my race, I dream of that race. Yesterday I even did special tests at the velodrome of Palma to improve my time trial capabilities. We are not invited. What can we do?
Tonight I will look at the calender. We have to change everything. Don’t ask me for the moment which races I will or can do. Anyway, I thank our sponsor who stays behind us, but I’m afraid other sponsors can leave cycling because of what happened today. It is a sad day for cycling.”
Keep it dialed to PEZ as we’ll pass on updates as we get ’em…