By VeloNews Interactive
Organizers of the Tour de France on Friday ruled out the possibility of the scandalized Kelme team being handed a wild-card invitation to this year’s race.
The decision comes days after former Kelme professional Jesus Manzano blew the whistle on what he claims to be systematic doping within the Spanish team.
Last month, Tour organizers announced the 21 teams for this year’s race – at which American Lance Armstrong will be bidding for a record sixth victory – but left open the possibility of a 22nd team participating.
Today, Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said the option of having a 22nd team had been reconsidered, adding that Kelme – one of the oldest teams in the professional peloton with almost 25 years of Tour experience – will also be excluded from races organized by the Tour’s parent company, ASO.
“We know a little bit more about it now, and we decided it was not possible to let the Kelme team take part in our races, including the Tour,” Leblanc told Reuters. “Even if we’re talking about an isolated case, it is obvious, given the list of products taken, that he (Manzano) cannot have acted on his own. He has obviously been helped by his team director or his team doctor.”
Manzano, 25, was sacked by Kelme after last year’s Tour of Spain for allegedly having sex with a woman in his hotel room, a charge he has denied. He stayed true to a promise made last week that he would seek his revenge for his sacking by revealing sordid details of organized doping within the team.
Manzano’s revelations mainly concern last year’s Tour de France – on which he claimed he came close to death when he collapsed on the seventh stage after being injected by an unknown substance. He also claimed he was forced to participate in blood transfusions. On Thursday Manzano also detailed how banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), growth hormones and other drugs are rampant in the peloton – and how riders collude with team doctors to fool doping testers.
His former team’s manager, Vicente Belda, and the Spanish cycling federation, have threatened legal action over what they say are false accusations. –AFP and Reuters contributed to this report.