The Astana team left the Tour de France in disgrace today after their leader, Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for an homologous blood transfusion.

Vinokourov tested positive after the 54km time trial in Albi on Saturday, the stage he won by over a minute from Cadel Evans. His Astana team mates Andreas Klöden and Andrey Kashechkin finished third and fourth on the stage, raising many eyebrows.

Team manager Marc Biver said that the test result was a catastrophe for the team but that they had no option but to leave the race. He went on to say that he takes the matter very seriously.

The team has been forced to leave the race now their position has become untenable after two positive dope tests in as many months. A third rider, Eddy Mazzoleni was involved in a doping investigation in Italy and has since retired.

Tour de France organisers ASO invited the team to leave the race this afternoon sparking a media frenzy at the team?s hotel on the outskirts of Pau.

When asked by Cycling Weekly if there was organised doping going on in the team a spokesman refused to answer. When asked if it was the end of the team, he said, ?yes, probably.?

More to follow..