February 14, 2008
Bye-bye Le Tour for Astana. Unless ASO does an almighty backflip there will be no invitation this year to Le Tour de France for the Astana team and their star riders. Riders who last year secured both 1st and 3rd, may I add. With stakes so high on either side – ASO desperately wants a drug-free Tour and Astana just want to race on the biggest stage – it may be that this ban gets contested all the way to July.
CN reports: 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.
Just my opinion, but who can blame ASO? Whilst Bruyneel may claim – quite rightly – that this is a new Astana with the right attitude and tough anti-doping rules and testing in place, this is also a team that in 2007 fostered the up and down roller-coaster ride that was Vinokourov (blood doper). And Kashechkin (blood doper). And Kessler (testosterone abuser). And a team that has managed to bring into the fold the remains – both key riders and managers – of a fairly tight-knit, successful and at times questionable Discovery team. I say ‘questionable’ advisedly, however there are enough books and websites written on the subjects of Armstrong, Landis and Basso for you to gather some answers – or simply more questions – for yourself.
When you reflect on Astana’s hasty creation from the charred remains of the bloodied corpse of Liberty Seguros – and its dreadfully tarnished image since – you have to wonder if ASO can afford to risk Le Tour’s reputation once more. Obviously not, at this stage anyway.