Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who has signed for the once-disgraced Astana team, will not be a guaranteed a starting place in the 2008 race, race organizers said on Friday.
Patrice Clerc, the president of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) which oversees the epic competition, said that selection for the Tour de France was based on teams rather than an individual pedigree.
“When we make our selection, we don’t pick individual riders but rather the teams,” said Clerc. “Let us have the time to calmly make our decision.”
Complicating the situation is the fact that the Spanish rider now competes for the Astana team after joining on a two-year contract at the end of last year from the Discovery Channel outfit.
But Astana was forced to withdraw from both the 2006 and 2007 Tours de France and was 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 a homologous blood transfusion during the Tour, while riders Andrej Kashechkin and Matthias Kessler have also failed doping tests.
“We have already taken the right to challenge those people (riders, teams, doctors) who damage the image of the sport,” Clerc told AFP.
Astana, which claims to have undergone significant reforms for 2008, claims its current structure is radically different from its predecessor. The changes, however, didn’t seem to have an impact on Giro d’Italia organizers who announced on Friday that Astana had not made the list of 21 teams invited to take part in the Tour of Italy from May 10-June 1.
“We are stunned,” said Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens.”Johan Bruyneel will attempt to get to know the reason for this decision.
“We don’t see the logic of this decision. I don’t believe there is another team which practices as much internal anti-doping control as we do.”
Astana wasn’t the only ProTour team left out in the cold by the Giro on Friday. High Road, Crédit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom also suffered the same fate.