After the announcement by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) that it had selected the twenty teams which will contest the 2008 Tour de France, there was little surprise at the names on the list. The ASO held true to its promise to leave the Astana Cycling Team of defending champion Alberto Contador out of the Tour, instead choosing Professional Continental teams Slipstream, Agritubel and Barloworld to fill the remaining three spots.
"These are, I believe, the best teams in the world," Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. He made it clear that there would be no further consideration of having Astana in the Tour, telling Reuters, "I want to make clear that this decision is aimed at the team, not at Alberto Contador but he happens to wear the Astana jersey."
The move goes against the UCI regulations which state that all ProTour teams must be invited to the Tour de France, but it is likely that the Tour, like the recent Paris-Nice, will not be sanctioned by the UCI unless some sort of compromise can be reached between the two warring parties.
The UCI has threatened teams and riders with sanctions for competing in Paris-Nice, which was held under the domain of the French Cycling Federation. Prudhomme told AFP that he could consult with the teams before putting them through a similar controversy during the Tour de France. "We don't want to make such decisions on our own. We would sit down and hold talks with the teams and, if a decision has to be taken, it will only be after negotiation."
The ASO has given Astana's past doping offenses as a reason for excluding the team from this year's event, but the team's spokesman Philippe Maertens decried the hypocrisy of the decision. "Where is the logic? There are other teams who have doping records. Rabobank and Cofidis were faulted in last year's Tour," he said.
Prudhomme made it clear that just because the teams have been invited does not mean that they are safe from the strict anti-doping efforts which will be in place. "Invitations are subject to every team's acceptance of the ethics which should be the cornerstone of cycling," Prudhomme said.