Dutch television's sports anchorman Mart Smeets has just reported that the Astana-Würth team has left the Tour de France. The team had five of its Tour riders officially named in the Operacion Puerto affair (Sergio Paulinho, Isidro Nozal, Allan Davis, Alberto Contador, Joseba Beloki), as well as several others (Michele Scarponi, Marcos Serrano, David Etxebarria, Angel Vicioso, Unai Osa, Jörg Jaksche), and of course ex-team manager Manolo Saiz. The team therefore wouldn't have had enough riders to start.
In an official statement, Active Bay, the team's management company, confirmed the news. "In view of the content of the dossier sent to Spanish authorities, Active Bay has decided, in accordance with the Ethical Code signed between the UCI ProTour's teams, to withdraw from the Tour de France those riders that appear in the above-mentioned dossier.
"This decision is adopted without prejudice of the respect to the right to the presumption of innocence of these riders and of that Active Bay will exercise the actions for the defence of its rights and those of its workers. This measure does not concern the team's riders of the Tour de France that are not included in the dossier: Alexander Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Carlos Barredo and Luis León Sanchez. Nevertheless, the withdrawal of the riders that appear in the above-mentioned dossier implies that the Tour of France team will not have the minimum number of riders demanded by the UCI rules, which means the team will not be able to take the start tomorrow morning in the Tour de France."
The organisers of the Tour, ASO, were already determined to refuse to allow Astana-Würth to start, despite a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport that said it could.
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto