UCI President Pat McQuaid has told Cycling Weekly that the Astana team should be given a place in this year?s Tour de France and made it clear that the Tour de France organisers ASO have to follow UCI rules and invite the 18 ProTour teams to this year?s race.

ASO are expected to announce who will be invited to this year?s race in the next few days but have always insisted they want total freedom on which teams they invite to their race.

?The UCI rule is that the 18 ProTour teams have to ride the Tour de France. That rule hasn?t been accepted by ASO but it was requested by the teams and put in place by the UCI,? McQuaid told Cycling Weekly.

?Why should ASO be able to chose the teams for the Tour de France when every other race organisers accepts the rules of the sport? They have to accept that the UCI set the rules for the sport.?

?This is crux of the whole problem between ASO and the UCI. ASO don?t follow the rules. Now it?s ASO?s choice: They either follow the rules of the UCI or get out of the UCI. One or the other.?

ASTANA DESERVE A PLACE

McQuaid made it clear that there is no reason why the Astana team should not be given a place in this year?s Tour de France despite the doping scandals that struck the team in 2007.

?There is no reason why Astana should not be invited to the Tour de France,? McQuaid said.

?I know that the Tour de France has been damaged by the actions of certain teams but this year, after the summit that was held in Paris on October and the announcement of the biological passport, we?ve increased the number of anti-doping test from 1000 to 8000. That means the riders in the 18 ProTour teams are the most tested athletes in the world and so there is no justifiable ethical reason not to invite one team before another.?

?You can?t operate on speculation, you can only operate on the facts you?ve got; you have to follow the law and the rules. Contador has not been proven guilty of anything in relation to his involvement in Operacion Puerto. ASO might try and make references to Operacion Puerto but they can?t do that. They can?t be judge and jury. It?s up to the authorities to be the judge and until that happens the organisers have to accept that and accept that the guys can race.?

?This a completely new Astana team. The Kazakhstan Federation agreed to change the management structure and the anti-doping philosophy of the team. To a point you can blame last year?s management for what happened but you can?t blame the new management. They?re doing everything that is needed and doing even more. They should be given credit for that and invited to the Tour de France.?

GIRO SELECTIONS NOT DONE ON MERIT

While speaking to Cycling Weekly, McQuaid questioned the reason for the recent announced team selection for this year?s Giro d?Italia, claiming that the major race organisers are shortsighted and taking the sport back in time.

?I find it a very strange team selection and don?t think Zomegnan can justify it. He hasn?t broken any rules but that gives him a certain responsibility and he hasn?t used that responsibility correctly,? McQuaid said.

?His choice of teams is proof that if selection is left to the organiser then it?s not done on sporting merits but for subjective, economical and other reasons. And that works against the sport.?

?If he (Zomegnan) really feels the Giro is a world class event then he should have a world class field. He certainly hasn?t got that this year. I hadn?t even heard of one of the teams until a few days ago. Nothing justifies leaving out some of the best teams in the peloton such as Team High Road, Astana, Credit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom.?

?To look in the past is unfair by the organisers. They should draw a line and look at the present. This year all teams are on same level and all will have biological passport. They should realise that the ProTour teams are the best structured and are best teams in the race and so I can?t see why the Giro doesn?t want them in their event.?

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