The 2006 Tour de France was blown wide open today as nine riders were excluded from the race including the two favourites, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. In a statement issued this afternoon (Friday) the UCI says that it "assumes that the following riders, signed in to participate at the Tour de France 2006, are involved in the affair: Sergio Paulinho, Isidro Nozal, Allan Davis, Alberto Contador, Joseba Beloki, Francisco Mancebo, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla." An updated starters list is expected to be issued by Tour organisers, ASO this evening.
Whatever happens now the implications of today's dramatic events are sure to reverberate way beyond the result of one particular race - no matter how important it is. Tour organisers, ASO and the teams moved quickly to throw out any named rider implicated in the Spanish anti-doping investigation, Operation Puerto. Events in Spain hung like a cloud over the build up to this year's Tour and that cloud finally burst on Thursday (29 June) evening when the Tour organisers were handed the list of riders named in the investigation (see below). It is likely the resulting storm will end the careers of a generation of, mainly Spanish, professional cyclists.
The Tour's guidelines oblige teams to suspend riders under investigation, with Tour boss Jean Marie Leblanc warning that they would 'do the housecleaning' themselves otherwise. T-Mobile suspended riders Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla, plus team manager Rudy Pevanage, CSC's Ivan Basso and AG2R's Francesco Mancebo were also suspended from the race by ASO. While the breadth and scale of the scandal dwarfs even 1998's Festina scandal it was also not without its bleakly farcial moments: the teams decided that no substitutes would be allowed for suspended riders, so Astana Wrth who hokey cokeyed in, then out, then back in again (thanks to the Court for Abitration in Sport) only to find themselves left with four riders, Alexandre Vinokourov was among them, but probably out again because it is extremely doubtful they could compete with only four riders.
Astana Wurth: Michele Scarponi (ITA), Marcos Antonio Serrano (ESP), David Etxebarria (ESP), Joseba Beloki (ESP), Angel Vicioso (ESP), Isidro Nozal (ESP), Unai Osa (ESP), Jaksche Joorg (GER), Giampaolo Caruso (ITA)
CSC: Ivan Basso (ITA)
Caisse d'Epargne-Iles Baleares: Constantino Zaballa (ESP)
Saunier Duval: Carlos Zarate (ESP)
AG2R: Francisco Mancebo (ESP)
T-Mobile: Jan Ullrich (GER), Oscar Sevilla (ESP)
Phonak: Jos Enrique Gutierrez (ESP), Jos Ignacio Gutierrez (ESP)
Communaut de Valence: Vicente Ballester (ESP), David Bernabeu (ESP), David Rodriguez (ESP), Jos Adrian Bonilla (ESP), Juan Gomis Lopez (ESP), Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (ESP), David Latasa (ESP), Ruben Plaza (ESP), Jos Luis Martinez (ESP), Manuel Llorent (ESP), Antonio Olmo (ESP), David Munoz (ESP), Javier Cherro (ESP), Javier Pascual (ESP, former rider and current technicien).
Unibet.com: Carlos Garcia Quesada (ESP)
Named but already retired or suspended for other doping offences: Roberto Heras (ESP), Angel Casero (ESP), Santiago Perez (ESP), Tyler Hamilton (USA), Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (ESP)
The drama continues.