Astana's Tour place still in doubt

Astana-Wrth may have avoided the fate of Comunitat Valenciana and managed to hang on to their place

Astana-Wrth may have avoided the fate of Comunitat Valenciana and managed to hang on to their place

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While the Astana-Wrth team have not suffered the same fate as compatriots Comunitat Valenciana and had their place in this year's Tour de France withdrawn, there is certain to be some debate about this issue after Tour organisers ASO requested the International Cycling Union to look into it.

The second half of ASO's statement on Comunitat Valenciana made clear that it expected the UCI to take some action over the team managed by Manolo Saiz, who arrested by Spain's Guardia Civil last month and has since temporarily stepped down from team management duties. "Concerning the case of Manolo Saiz, the Tour de France has taken into account the fact of his withdrawal from the Tour, a withdrawal that the race organisation would have requested anyway," said ASO's statement.

It continued: "Concerning his team and because of this year's system, except for invitations, the participation is decided by the UCI through the attribution of licences by a special commission. Therefore the Tour de France awaits an upcoming decision of this commission concerning the presence in its event of a team in which one of the main shareholders is blamed in a doping issue."

The statement concluded by saying: "Finally, if riders or members of the team staff are accused by the Spanish justice before the start or during the event, the ethics code decided by the sporting groups envisaging the withdrawal or retirement of people concerned will be strongly applied."

Astana pre-empted this announcement to a certain extent by naming their 12-rider squad for the Tour a few hours before ASO's statement was released, and leaving out Angel Vicioso, the only one of their riders so far implicated in the blood doping affair. Ironically, later in the afternoon, Vicioso won the fourth stage of the Tour of Switzerland, the Astana team's first victory since they stepped in for Liberty Seguros.

Vicioso spent much of his subsequent press conference fielding questions about his links to the doctor at the centre of the Operacion Puerto investigation, Eufemiano Fuentes. "Am I a client of Dr Fuentes? I don't want to answer that question. I am happy to answer all questions about the stage, but not that one," said the Spaniard.

"It's (Astana-) Wrth's first victory. I am happy to have brought it to the team, it's a team that has put a lot of faith in us," said the 29 year old when given the chance to talk about his victory.

The 12 riders who did make the squad are Carlos Barredo, Assan Bazayev, Joseba Beloki, Alberto Contador, Allan Davis, Jrg Jaksche, Andrei Kashechkin, Isidro Nozal, Sergio Paulinho, Aitor Osa, Luis Leon Sanchez and Alexandre Vinokourov.

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