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Vinokourov's team to start Tour de France

6/29/2006

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The Court of Arbitration for Sport
rejected a bid by Tour de France organizers Thursday to exclude the
Astana-Wurth team from this year's race because of doping
allegations.

"Despite the number of troubling elements brought out by the
media in Spain concerning the team, no official information
concerning this inquiry has been revealed by the Spanish
authorities," CAS said in its ruling.
Tour organizers asked the Astana-Wurth team Tuesday to withdraw
from the three-week race that starts Saturday in Strasbourg, saying
it wanted to protect the "image of the Tour." The team declined
to pull out, and CAS invited both sides to Thursday's hearing at
its Switzerland headquarters.

CAS said sanctioning the team "could not be justified" because
of the lack of "concrete elements."

The decision clears one of the Tour favorites, Alexandre
Vinokourov, to compete. The Kazakh cyclist, who finished third in
the 2003 Tour, said earlier Thursday: "There is no proof against
the team."

French sports daily L'Equipe reported that the International
Cycling Union submitted Vinokourov to a surprise urine test late
Wednesday. No other cyclists were tested, the report said.

Spanish daily El Pais reported Sunday that investigations show
at least 15 members of the former Liberty Seguros team -- since
renamed Astana-Wurth -- were among 58 pro cyclists who may have
received prohibited substances and blood transfusions in recent
years.

Five people -- including former Liberty Seguros team director
Manolo Saiz -- were arrested and charged in May when police seized
steroids, hormones and the endurance-booster EPO at a Madrid doping
clinic. Saiz later was released. He has denied any involvement in
doping.

Liberty Seguros withdrew its sponsorship due to the allegations,
and Astana-Wurth took over the team earlier this month.

Athletes allegedly went to the clinic to have blood extracted
for doping or to collect performance-enhancing drugs. Nearly 100
bags of frozen blood and equipment for treating blood were found,
along with documents on doping procedures performed on cyclists.