Astana banned by ASO - Contador unable to defend Tour de France title

Contador won the Tour in 2007, but will be prevented from riding in 2008.

Contador won the Tour in 2007, but will be prevented from riding in 2008. (Image credit: Sirotti)

Alberto Contador, the winner of the 2007 Tour de France, will not be able to start this year's event after his team, Astana, was not invited to participate in La Grande Boucle. The exclusion was announced on Wednesday in Europe by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), owner of the Tour de France, and it extends to all cycle races organised by the French conglomerate.

Besides the defending Tour champion Contador, this also spells bad news for American Levi Leipheimer, who was hoping to improve on his third-place finish last year, and German Andreas Klöden.

ASO said it made the decision based on the doping scandals of the last two years. In a press release ASO stated that the organisers considered the "damages that this team has done to the Tour de France and to cycling in general. The team Astana has betrayed the organiser's confidence last year."

ASO recognized the changes having taken place in the management. They indicated they will follow Astana's efforts to stay free of affairs in 2008 "and could therefore be considered once again for inclusion in future editions [of ASO races]."

Astana had several doping cases last year with Matthias Kessler and most spectacularly in the Tour de France with Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin.

For Paris-Nice, also run by ASO, three Pro Continental teams have been included, with Agritubel, Slipstream Chipotle - H30 and Skil-Shimano.

(More reports to follow soon.)

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