ASTANA-WURTH TO FIGHT FOR TOUR PLACE
Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana-Wurth team have said they will go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to defend their right to start the Tour de France but a decision is likely to come less than 24 hours before Saturday’s prologue.
On Monday Tour organizers ASO asked the troubled Spanish team not to travel to Strasbourg after further revelations in El Pais newspaper and because former team manager Manolo Saiz is still the majority share holder of the team. ASO claim they have the right to exclude any team that damages the image of the Tour even if that team is part of the UCI ProTour and so automatically qualifies for the race.
Last week the UCI said there was not enough evidence to exclude the team and gave the team the green light after Vinokourov brought in new Kazakh sponsor Astana.
In a press release the team said they would appeal to the Swiss-based CAS, who in reply, said a ‘quick procedure’ would be created and the case heard before Friday.
Vinokourov joined up with his team mates in Madrid on Tuesday before traveling to Strasbourg on Wednesday and was determined to ride the Tour.
“We will use all means possible to be at the start of the Tour," Vinokourov told French newspaper L'Equipe.
"I don't understand why they're stopping at the 15 riders of Liberty. If there are 58 (riders implicated), why don't they give the 58 names? And if they told me three weeks ago that we had no chance of riding the Tour, I would not have gone to get a new sponsor."
Vino’s team mate Andrei Kashechkin claimed the dispute could even spark a diplomatic incident between France and Kazakhstan.
“The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan will call Jacques Chirac. It could become a diplomatic incident,” he said.
“The colours of our country are at stake and there are important French investors in our country."
Speaking from Paris, UCI president Pat McQuaid said the UCI could not act on the El Pais revelations because they still have not received any formal information from the Spanish police.
“Our hands are tied because we have to respect our own rules, same as the organisers of the Tour de France," McQuaid said.
"It's frustrating because this affair is terrible, but for the time being, we have no proof that would enable us to sanction teams or riders."