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McQuaid pushes for Astana reversal

UCI president Pat McQuaid promised Friday to put the full weight of the organization behind an effort to ensure that defending Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will take part in this year's edition of the world’s biggest bicycle race. The Tour's organizers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), announced on February 13 that Contador's Astana team would be barred from competing in this year's race because of doping scandals over the past two years.

McQuaid says the Astana exclusion is "unjust."

McQuaid says the Astana exclusion is “unjust.”

Photo: Agence France Presse (File Photo)

UCI president Pat McQuaid promised Friday to put the full weight of the organization behind an effort to ensure that defending Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will take part in this year’s edition of the world’s biggest bicycle race.

The Tour’s organizers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), announced on February 13 that Contador’s Astana team would be barred from competing in this year’s race because of doping scandals over the past two years.

“We will do everything that is possible to ensure that Contador takes part in the Tour,” McQuaid told the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Friday. “It would be a tragedy if Contador could not defend his title.”

“It’s unjust and unjustifiable,” he said. “It’s a decision taken by people who don’t understand this sport.”

Tour organizers said they had decided to prevent Astana from competing in any of their races because of “the damage caused by this team to the Tour de France and cycling in general, as much in 2006 as 2007.”

The Luxembourg-registered Kazakh team was forced to withdraw from the 2007 Tour de France and were snubbed by the Vuelta a España in September after a string of doping scandals.

The team’s former leader Alexandre Vinokourov was fired after testing positive for homologous blood doping during the Tour, while riders Andrej Kashechkin and Matthias Kessler also failed doping tests.

Since that drug-tainted 2007 season, Astana has undergone a makeover, hiring new riders, including Contador and Leipheimer, along with their manager, Johan Bruyneel, from the now defunct Discovery Channel team.

Bruyneel helped Lance Armstrong to seven consecutive Tour wins, and led Contador to his first yellow jersey last year.

Contador, a member of the team in 2006, joined Astana in a two-year deal in October.

Astana has also been left out of a list of 21 teams due to compete in this year’s Giro d’Italia as well as this year’s editions of Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico.