On the eve of the America's premier stage race, the Amgen Tour of California
(AToC), the attention shifted across the great pond where Amaury Sports
Organization (ASO) who own the Tour de France announced that Team Astana,
which has defending Tour champion Alberto Contador on it's roster, would not
be invited to any ASO-organized events in 2008. ASO's decision is in response
to the doping incident at the 2007 Tour which saw Alexandre Vinokourov testing
positive for blood boosting.
Hey, it's my blog and I say that decision sucks big time. After a very rocky
2007 which saw other doping violations, the Team Astana sponsors basically
kicked out all team personnel and questionable riders. On paper, the name may
be the same, but the squad and it's management are completely different. If
the sport of cycling is going to move forward from its current state, the
sport's governing body, the UCI, and the race organizers have to be willing to
give riders and their teams second chances.
Look, we are dealing with people's jobs and careers here. Decisions like this
have to be made fairly and consistently. Team Rabobank arguably brought the
most disgrace to the 2007 Tour. When was the last time the yellow jersey was
bounced from the Grand Boucle? Rabobank hasn't been excluded from all ASO
events. It just doesn't make sense to me. Clearly, this is going to be a hot
topic of discussion for a while. What are your thoughts?
So what does this mean for the upcoming AToC? Thankfully, the event
organizers, AEG, don't appear to have any hidden agendas so we are going to
have nine of the top European professional teams, including Astana, and eight
US Domestic squads (well, Slipstream and BMC have European racing schedules)
putting on one heck of a show.
Defending 2007 AToC champion and Tour podium finisher, Levi Leipheimer is on
Team Astana. If he and his mates are shut out of the biggest races in Europe,
that leaves the AToC to make a statement. Personally, I hope that ASO see the
flaw in their logic (it's so big it is hard not to notice) and invites, Levi
and Alberto to the big show. But, part of me likes the fact that Leipheimer
will undoubtedly be racing with a rather large chip on his shoulder at the
Tour of California because the guy has the legs and lungs to lay down a very