The list of unwelcome stars in the 2007 World Championships grew rather longer on Wednesday morning when it emerged that cycling legend Eddy Merckx had not received an invitation from the Stuttgart organising committee to be present at the race.
Merckx, together with Germans Dietrich Thurau and Rudi Altig, not to mention double World Champion Gianni Bugno have all been declared persona non grata.
?We wanted to make an example.? World?s spokesman Jorg Kopfler said in the Belgian press.
?The people who have not received an invitation belong to an epoch when there was greater tolerance as regards doping. We should promote cleaner cycling. It?s in no case a personal attack.?
Eddy Merckx reacted to the non-invitation in his usual uncompromising style: ?There are idiots everywhere and that includes Germany.?
?I wasn?t going to go to Stuttgart anyway, I haven?t been on holiday for years so that was my top priority.?: Merckx is now heading for Egypt with his wife Claudine.
The declaration that Merckx cannot race contrasts sharply with Germany?s willingness to accept Erik Zabel?s participation in the World Championships.As for Alejandro Valverde, his controversial possible exclusion will be resolved later today in Switzerland.
Danilo Di Luca?s participation in the World Championships was looking complicated on Wednesday after his alleged implication in different anti-doping investigations was once more brought up in the Italian media. The 2007 Tour of Italy winner is still on the Italian start list, but may not finally race.
Meanwhile reigning World Champ. Paolo Bettini has insisted that he had signed the UCI?s anti-doping charter this summer – albeit with an extra document refusing to hand over a year?s salary in case of implication in a doping affair.
Bettini?s alleged refusal to sign the anti-doping charter, an accusation which emerged from the UCI on Tuesday, has caused yet another minor storm in the troubled build-up to the World Championships. However, Bettini at least is definitely heading for Stuttgart.
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS
Bettini denies supplying drugs to Sinkewitz
Valverde can race at World Championships
Eddy Merckx not welcome at Worlds
Cooke out of Worlds, Brailsford names GB squad
British team get extra places for U23 Worlds
Boonen out of Worlds
Should Valverde ride the Worlds?
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE
2007 Road World Championships preview
Elite Men Time Trial: full start list
Elite Women’s Time Trial: Pooley takes eighth,
Under-23 Time Trial: Boom takes second world title in 2007
TV guide: World Champs on British Eurosport
TV guide: World Champs on BBC
2006 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
World Champs 2006: Cancellara nets gold in TT
World Champs 2006: Cooke blasts to bronze in Salzburg
Official 2007 Road World Championships website: www.radwm2007.com.
Union Cycliste Internationale: www.uci.ch.