The winner of the 2006 Tour of Spain, Alexandre Vinokourov, will not be able to defend his title after he was expelled from the Tour de France for blood doping, organisers said Friday.
“He will not be able in any manner to register for the 2007 Vuelta,” organisers said in a statement seen by AFP, adding they wanted to see a clean race after the doping scandals in France over the past month.
But they revealed that they would invite the disgraced Kazakh’s Astana team to the race, which is one of the top events on the international calendar.
“Faithful to our mission, tradition and history as organisers of the Vuelta we hereby declare that we will take all moral and financial measures at the disposition of Spanish and international authorities to ensure the event goes ahead under the highest standards of reliability,” organisers said.
They also stressed they were bound to “consider as our priority objective the credibility of our sport” in saying no to the likes of Vinokourov while indicating Astana deserved a “gesture of support” for trying to put its house in order.
Astana sacked their team leader following Vinokourov’s expulsion from the Tour after he failed a drug test in the aftermath of his 13th stage win on July 21. He also tested positive in a second test taken on July 23. The rider’s sample revealed the presence of “two distinct blood populations.”
Vinokourov, who had been among the favourites for the Tour de France, has contested the validity of the results of both the A and B samples but his team dismissed him after his positive test following his time trial victory at Albi on July 21. Astana also immediately quit the event en masse. The 33-year-old Vinokourov insists he would have had to be “crazy” to have doped.
Vuelta organisers are keen to ensure that nothing is left to chance with interest in the sport still at fever pitch despite the scandals owing to Spanish rider Alberto Contador having won the Tour de France, a success aided by the forced exit of Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen was kicked off the Tour by his Rabobank team while leading with four days left for allegedly lying about his whereabouts before the race to evade drug testers while he was also in hot water for missing random drug tests in May and June.
In addition, Spain is still reeling from last year’s Operation Puerto inquiry into Eufemiano Fuentes, the Spanish doctor alleged to have masterminded doping programmes for athletes, an investigation which fingered several names in the cycling world.
Links: 2007 Vuelta