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.
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Official 2007 Road World Championships website: www.radwm2007.com.
Union Cycliste Internationale: www.uci.ch.