Tour winner Contador not guaranteed 2008 place

Tour de France organisers haven't picked teams

Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who has signed for the disgraced Astana team, will not be a guaranteed a starting place in the 2008 race.

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 were forced to withdraw from the 2007 Tour de France and were snubbed by the Spanish Vuelta in September after a string of doping scandals.

The team's former leader Alexandre Vinokourov was fired after testing positive for a blood transfusion during the Tour, while riders Andrei 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, who claim their 2008 set-up is radically different from their shamed 2007 organisation, had even more grounds for complaint later Friday when they discovered they had not made the list of 21 teams invited to take part in the Giro d'Italia from May 10-June 1.

"We are stunned," said Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens. "(General manager) 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 practises as much internal anti-doping control as we do."

Astana weren't the only team left out in the cold by the Giro organisers. Team High Road, Credit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom also suffered the same fate.

© AFP 2008

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