Saiz's Tour place in question

Alexandre Vinokourov may still be backing his Astana team manager Manolo Saiz, but it is looking inc

Alexandre Vinokourov may still be backing his Astana team manager Manolo Saiz, but it is looking inc
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM There are growing doubts over the likelihood of Manolo Saiz, manager of what is now the Astana team and was previously backed by Liberty Seguros, being allowed to accompany his riders on the Tour de France next month. In a press conference on Monday evening at the Dauphin Libr, Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc said that he would take "a week to decide" what he would do in response to the doping-related controversy in which the Spanish Astana and Comunitat Valenciana teams are currently embroiled. "There are three weeks left before the Tour starts in Strasbourg and we're going to take advantage of them to collate all of the information, analyse it, and then take a decision," said Leblanc. "We still haven't got all of the necessary facts. It all seems to be in the hands of the Spanish justice system, and, it seems to me, the UCI as well. But our hands won't tremble over what to do as soon as we get these missing elements." Leblanc did not refer to any particular person implicated in the Operacion Puerto affair which led to the detention of Saiz and former Kelme and ONCE team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, as well as three others, but did talk of "one staff member being caught red-handed". Saiz was found to be carrying a bag of blood and 60,000 euros in various currencies when he was detained by the Spanish Guardia Civil. Leblanc added: "If we don't have these elements within a week, we will still make a decision." He also praised the association of professional cycling teams for their demand that Saiz step down as the association's president. It is rumoured that the only way the Astana team led by Alexandre Vinokourov will be able to start the Tour is if Saiz is sacked. According to Monday's El Peri¢dico de Catalunya, Saiz was also allegedly found to be carrying a medical product whose use is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The product was reported to be Synacthen, which is said to artificially stimulate muscle growth. One person who is still sticking by Saiz is his team leader Vinokourov. "I've spoken with Manolo and he has told me he's got nothing to do with all this, and I believe him." said the Kazakh. "Sometimes the press exaggerate things and go too far."

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