Kai Rapp has said the Switzerland-registered Astana ProTour team "will have a problem" with his Deutschland Tour, as he doesn't want the team competing in his ProTour event. The Kazakhstan-backed squad was "invited to leave" the Tour de France at the beginning of this week after its star rider, Alexander Vinokourov, registered a non-negative sample after his Stage 13 time trial victory.
"Astana will have a problem with us - we don't see them at the start," said Rapp to Speigel Online. "We will have a co-worker, especially hired for this, [to] look at the vita of every rider registered to ride. He won't do anything else. If he finds problems, then the rider will have a problem."
By excluding Astana, the Tour will lose German star Andreas Klöden, but that doesn't bother Rapp, who noted that Klöden missed last year's race. "In 2006 he decided he would rather ride criteriums," he said. Rapp doubted that the German would be able to distance himself from the Astana team. "Alexander Vinokourov and Matthias Kessler are his friends, and they need friends like him now. We respect his loyalty. The problem is that his attempts to distance himself from these things just do not come across convincingly."
Despite the announcement during the Tour that T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz tested non-negative from a June 8 sample, and Cofidis' Cristian Moreni registering a non-negative sample during the Tour, Rapp has no problem with either of the teams. "We will carefully check out how the teams have reacted to the cases," he said. "Have they tried to cover up? What consequences have they taken? The voluntarily withdrawal of the team after the Cofidis rider Moreni's doping case persuaded me, for example."
He added that he hoped that the sponsor T-Mobile would not leave cycling. "The consequences would be tragic," he confessed. "T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner could accomplish a lot in the fight against doping, with the German market in the background. This market is very important for everyone involved in cycling. If they left, it would be a catastrophe." SW