By Anthony Tan
Ousted from their Tour de France berth a little over two weeks from the start in Strasbourg, Spanish Pro Continental team Comunidad Valenciana has sent a letter to organisers A.S.O., asking them to reconsider what they feel was an unfair decision.
In the letter, sent to A.S.O. on Wednesday, the team said the decision to exclude Comunidad Valenciana is based on suppositions, not facts:
"The riders of the Comunidad Valenciana team have, to date, passed all controls conducted by the UCI without any shade of suspicion on them. The Comunidad Valenciana team has contributed to the upholding of the ethical code, demonstrating on all occasions its integrity," read the statement.
Furthermore, the statement said not one of their riders has so far been implicated in the investigation conducted by the Spanish Civil Guard, known as 'Operation Puerto', and assistant team manager José Ignacio Labarta has now left the team.
"This is an excessive measure," team manager Vicente Belda said to Marca, adding Labarta's departure did nothing for the team. "There are teams that have doping incidents that are in the Tour. It's years since we've had a doping scandal. We have passed many controls."
Said Belda: "They caught the assistant director of AG2R and they raced the Tour, and Cofidis had an significant scandal and they raced too. The French organizers are more tolerant with teams from their country. We have no one implicated, except Ignacio Labarta... we have no rider on 'the list'."
Belda has also called on the Spanish government's state secretary for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, to intervene on behalf of the team. "I don't know what to say. I am sorry for the cyclists, because they have worked for many months and trained like Cossacks to prepare for the Tour. We're clean. This is very hard for us."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
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