So if the Tour de France is the greatest test for a professional cyclist and Alberto Contador is, arguably, the current best grand tour cyclist in the world; is it still the biggest test if he is not there?
Contador and his Astana teammates, including Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden, were not invited because of Astana's drug related embarrassments last year at the Tour de France and other races. Now Astana is under the masterful management of Johan Bruyneel, the architect of Lance Armstrong's and Contador's wins, and also has few remaining members of the fiasco that was the team last season. Is it at all fair that last year's winner cannot defend his crown? Absolutely not. Is it the right of the organizers to not allow Astana? Yep. Should they? I guess that's where the debate lies.
The organizers of the Tour de France have changed governing bodies and have, reportedly been attempting to change rules for their race. Sure it's historic. Yes it is THE EVENT. But should they be so powerful to be able change rules at will and allow who they want, when they want for whatever reason they want? No frickin' way!!
These 'businessmen' are taking away from the fans of cycling. Pretty soon us folks in North America may lose the Versus feed for the event because there is no one of interest in the race any longer. It could happen. In Canada it is pretty much the only televised bike race available all year long. No Spring Classics. No Tour de California or anything of the sort. I want to be able to watch a sport I love.
Druggies be damned. Kick them out as they are found out. Instead of not allowing 'clean' racers in, test during the race...a lot. Then make certain the names are made known to the world. Embarrass them. Think Rasmussen wasn't a deeper shade of red when he was outed for a possible infraction? Damn right he was. It also likely hit pretty deep in the pockets too. Any endorsements these guys have will be history, especially if a company is clever enough to include a 'moral' clause in the contract.
Now if the Tour wanted to leave a team like Rock Racing out of their race, that's ok by me. Even though I am a big Tyler Hamilton fan, this is a team that prides itself on having the 'bad asses' of cycling. Dopers (admitted or at least proven & those that continue to defend themselves), bad boys and hell even Floyd Landis is associated with the squad. They are there as pure entertainment with good cycling taking a back seat. For the record I do enjoy the show Rock puts on and I only wish I could afford their official kit. Astana, on the other hand, is a great team that is full of grand tour contenders and one hell of a tactician. Oh yeah and they won the Giro d'Italia with only eight days notice.
Just because some former team members have done bad, is no reason to not allow them to race. If the Olympic committee took that kind of stand we'd have Greenland and Antarctica head to head in every sport. Punish those that have done the deed, not those getting past it and rebuilding.
ASO get your head out of your asses and allow Astana to race in a race of champions.