Levi Leipheimer, who was third in the 2007 Tour de France, said on Thursday that he was “appalled and disappointed” by the decision to ban his Astana team from this year’s race.
Astana, headed by reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, were barred from competing in the 2008 edition on Wednesday as a result of doping scandals over the past two years.
As well as Contador and Leipheimer, the decision also affects Germany’s Andreas Kloden, widely considered as one of the race favourites.
“I am appalled and very disappointed,” said the American cyclist Leipheimer. “Just like all of my friends, my family and supporters, I cannot understand why we are not allowed to take part in the Tour and defened Alberto’s title.
“We want to know why this decision has been taken. I chose to race for this team, a new team and I don’t regret it.”
Astana’s former leader Alexandre Vinokourov was fired after testing positive for a blood transfusion during the 2007 Tour, while riders Andrej Kashechkin and Matthias Kessler also failed doping tests.
Since their drug-tainted 2007 season, Astana have undergone a makeover, and promised to clean up their act. A new team of riders has been hired along with manager, Johan Bruyneel, from the now defunct Discovery Channel team.
© AFP 2008