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The organisers of the Vuelta a Espa¤a, Unipublic, announced on Thursday evening that all those riders implicated in the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation will not be allowed to line up in their race, which starts in Malaga on August 26. Among those affected are Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Francisco Mancebo, as well as the entire Comunitat Valenciana team, which is now set to fold at the end of the season.
Unipublic made the decision after being sent a copy of the Minister of the Interior's report into doping within cycling. Like the organisers of the Tour de France, Unipublic were able to withdraw the Vuelta invite they had previously offered to Comunitat Valenciana.
"Our decision in no way prejudges the 18 people linked to the [Comunitat Valenciana] team who are mentioned in these documents of any. The team was invited to the race on the condition - which it agreed to - that it signed the ethical code and did not have a single incident related to the use of substances and banned methods," stated Unipublic's communiqu.
Unipublic added that no other team will take the place freed up by Comunitat Valenciana's exclusion. Their exclusion of Ullrich, Basso and other riders is based on the same principles used by the Tour de France organisation a month ago after they were implicated in the Puerto affair.
The most immediate result of this news was a not unexpected announcement by the Comunitat Valenciana regional government that they are to end their link with the team at the end of the season. Like Unipublic, the CV said it was not prejudging those implicated in the Puerto affair, but simply reacting to the loss of the shop window that would have been offered to it by starts in the Tour and the Vuelta.
CV team manager Vicente Belda responded by saying he would be seeking damages from the regional government and from Unipublic. They are, said Belda, "playing with the lives of 32 innocent families".
"Unipublic is responsible for the disappearance of the team. If this team had any chance of continuing it was because there was a possibility of riding the Vuelta," said Belda, who added he had a certificate from the court investigating the Puerto case clearing his riders of any wrongdoing. "They are neither implicated nor being investigated," he said.
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