After the announcement of Kazakh team Astana's exclusion from this year's Giro d'Italia, one of the squad's captains, Andreas Klöden, has voiced his concern over possible consequences this could have on the 2008 racing programme. On the team's official website, the German Tour de France podium finisher worried that the Giro organiser RCS Sport might not invite Astana to its other races, including Tirreno-Adriatico, a spring stage race which Klöden won last year.
Asked how he felt about perhaps not being able to defend his title at Tirreno if the team was excluded from all RCS-owned events, Klöden said, "It's bad. It makes it hard for the team to plan when we don't know what races we can do. If we have to switch around all of the time some of the younger guys will not get so many opportunities to do good races. There might not be enough races for everyone if this continues. It's a problem."
The 32 year-old couldn't understand Astana's exclusion from the Italian Grand Tour, especially because the team has changed its structure altogether since last year, when it had to leave the Tour de France because of Alexandre Vinokourov's positive blood-doping test. "The team has gone a new way, we have an anti-doping programme in place," Klöden said. "A lot of the teams going to the Giro have no anti-doping programmes and do nothing about it. Johan and the team have put out so much money for this testing."
Moreover, the German was concerned that the decision could have wider consequences on the future of the sport. "Maybe more sponsors and teams are going to end up stopping because of this sort of thing," he added. "I think it is not right to exclude the teams of the ProTour. The problem now is with giving the UCI a lot of money for the ProTour license but they give nothing back. Maybe the teams should say, 'Fine, give us our money back.' How long will the fight keep going on?"
Klöden admitted that he had thought about leaving team Astana last summer after the Tour de France debacle, but finally opted to stay when Johan Bruyneel took over the reigns. "At the very first after the Tour de France, yes, I wanted to leave the team," he said. "It was too much and all the problems with doping were talked about all the time. It was written that maybe all of the riders with Astana could be doping too and I didn't like that. But now we have the medical check programme from [Rasmus] Damsgaard and I think it's very good. So I knew I needed a team and I saw the team Johan was putting together and the riders moving over with him from Discovery Channel. And now I am very glad I stayed with him and with Team Astana."
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