ASO announced 20 teams for the 2008 Tour de France and, to no surprise, Astana was not on the list. This decision leaves podium finishers Contador, Kloden, and Leipheimer watching from the sidelines, just as they did for Paris-Nice and will do for Paris-Roubaix, Liege Bastogne Liege or any other race organized by the ASO.
While the news isn’t shocking, it doesn’t come without question. Why has Astana been singled out? Astana was not invited due to doping problems during the event last year. OK. I’ll give them that and will even agree that an entirely revamped team still carries the stigma and, thus, shouldn’t be allowed to race the following year. But what about other teams that suffered from doping during the ’07 TdF, specifically Rabobank and Cofidis? The Chicken (Rasmussen) was allowed to start the 2007 event despite at least 4 missed out-of-competition tests. Then, he was pulled out of the race and fired by Rabo while in the yellow jersey. Yet, Rabobank is in for 2008.
Cofidis pulled its entire team from the 2007 event after one of its riders, Christian Moreni failed a doping test taken following Stage 11. Yet, like Rabobank, Confidis will be on the line.
If ASO wishes to go it alone and operate events without UCI governance, the least they can do is provide a level playing field. Rules should be applied consistently across all teams no matter their country of origin…yes, I think this decision is more about America’s domination of the race than doping. And, considering the line up, Astana was positioned to dominate the Tour again this year.