The Astana team of Andreas Klöden, who was recently implicated in the Freiburg doping investigation, has chosen the German for its 15-rider pre-selection for the Tour de France.
According to an in-depth article published by Der Spiegel, Klöden, Patrik Sinkewitz and Matthias Kessler allegedly travelled to the University Medical Centre Freiburg after the first stage of the 2006 Tour de France to receive illicit blood transfusions.
Despite the investigation, the Astana team stressed that it would be selecting Klöden for its Tour de France squad.
“The only thing mentioned about Klöden in that well documented [Freiburg] report, is that Sinkewitz says that Klöden was there [at the clinic] too,” Astana’s team spokesman, Philippe Maertens, told Cycling Weekly, but Klöden “says the opposite.
“If Klöden is guilty and not punished, it would be bad for cycling,” Maertens continued.
“If he is innocent and punished, that would be worse. We cannot condemn somebody without any evidence.”
Sinkewitz and Kessler were subsequently banned from the sport for separate doping offences but Klöden has never tested positive.
“Compare it with the Menchov-Austria story during the Giro. You cannot send Menchov home because someone says that he is involved in a case, without showing evidence.
Tour de France organiser, ASO, has shown over recent years its zero-tolerance policy towards doping offenders and took the step of banning the Astana team from last year’s race for past misdemeanours.
Asked whether ASO has been in contact with the Astana team regarding the matter, Maertens said: “As far as I know, ASO did not contact us and they probably will not.”
“We hope he [Klöden] will be ready for [the Tour de France]. He showed last year in the Giro and Vuelta that he is a super teammate.
“The final selection decision will probably be taken after the Tour of Switzerland,” but it looks likely that the German will start after recently finishing second overall at the Tour of Luxembourg.