Astana kicked out of Tour of Spain

Too many doping scandals for embattled Kazakh team

Elite cycling outfit Astana were told Monday they cannot compete in next month's Tour of Spain because of recent doping scandals concerning the team.

Vuelta organisers said in a statement that they were withdrawing the Swiss-based Kazakh team's invitation for the September 1-23 race.

"After analysing the information available to us regarding Astana we have decided to withdraw the team's invitation for La Vuelta because of doping cases within the team during the 2007 season," organisers said, alluding to two of the team's riders who finished on the podium last season.

Astana, who pulled out of the Tour de France following the failed dope test of their Kazakh leader Vinokourov, announced last week they had suspended all sporting activities until the end of August.

Vinokourov was expelled from cycling's most prestigious race after failing the control following his win in the 13th stage time-trial on July 21. Vinokourov has contested the validity of the results of both the A and B samples. He also tested positive in a second test taken on July 23.

Teammate and compatriot Andrei Kashechkin, who finished third in last year's Vuelta, also tested positive for blood doping last month.

German rider Matthias Kessler was suspended by the team in June after testing positive for excess levels of testosterone and Italy's Eddy Mazzoleni was dropped from their Tour de France team because of doping allegations.

Tour of Spain organisers have unveiled a long list of anti-doping measures for this year's race as scandals have resulted in waning public interest in the world's third most important three-week stage race - after the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia.

Spaniard Roberto Heras, the 2005 winner, was stripped of his title after testing positive for erythropoietin.

This year's race gets underway without Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, second in last year's Vuelta, who have decided not to compete.

© AFP 2007

See also the latest Procycling blog, Suspend Astana now

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