By Greg Johnson
Legal action brought on Tour de France organiser, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), by the Unibet.com ProTour team has been thrown out of a court in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, France. The ProTour squad was appealing its non-invitation to this year's Tour, which commenced in London last weekend, which it in theory has the right to contest due to its status as a ProTour team.
"Harassed by this series of legal procedures, which have often been led with the full support of the UCI, ASO, as a race organizer, is comforted by the decisions taken," declared a statement from ASO after the case was thrown out.
The failed legal action is the latest happening in a season-long battle between the two organisations, with ASO, which operates some of the world's biggest cycling events, refusing the squads participation due to its sponsor being illegal in France. The promotion of unauthorized online gambling company, such as Unibet.com, is illegal in France and inviting the squad to participate in its events would see ASO answerable to authorities, the organisation has claimed.
"If someone is to blame for the broken promises that were made to Unibet, then its not us but UCI," ASO president Patrice Clerc told AP. "It's really not our problem. We're trying to do our job as responsible, law-abiding race organizers.
"For me, the UCI's attitude is incomprehensible," added Clerc.
With the European Commission backing Unibet and saying that laws such as those found in France are both monopolistic and against EC regulations, many see the real reason as being the power struggle between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers. The Unibet.com squad even offered to race under Canyon.com sponsorship on French soil, in order to start the important ProTour races its been kept from, however ASO refused to yield.
Tuesday's appeal was the third by Unibet.com, having already taken the matter to courts in Brussels and Lille. Bookmakers Review reported that Unibet's CEO Petter Nylander was planning to sue a series of race organisers, including ASO, for some 100 million Euros.
While Unibet.com reaps the rewards of constant headlines over the legal disputes, the team's holding company, Green Cycle Associates AB, and its riders have been forced to watch on as its rivals tackle some of the world's largest events. Some of Unibet.com's riders were reportedly prevented from riding their national championships as apart of the fallout over the gambling sponsorship issue last month.