The Tour of Spain have announced that Astana cannot take part in the race this September. The news is, according to a communique from the Vuelta, directly related to Astana leaders Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin?s recent positive tests for blood doping.
?We are convinced that Astana is interested in finding out who and what were responsibile for these terrible errors.? the communique states. ?We respect the measures that the team have decided to take which should be make for a clear, solid and credible future for the team.?
?However, the lack of time before the race start?. – in Vigo on September 1st – ?does not permit us to delay this decision any further.?
After missing out on the 2006 Tour when too many of their line-up were linked to the anti-doping probe Operacion Puerto, Vinokourov and Kashechkin finished first and third respectively in last year?s Vuelta.
Given a wild-card invitation by the Vuelta organisers this December – as the race no longer considers itself part of the ProTour, Astana were not automatically alloted a place in the race – Astana had intended to make the Vuelta their first race back following a month?s self-imposed suspension from the sport.
The Vuelta?s decision means 21 teams, not 22, will take part in the race this year.