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By VeloNews Interactive
The Italian Saeco-Longoni Sport team has been officially dis-invited fromthe Tour de France after the team’s top GC contender, Gilberto Simoni wastwice found positive for cocaine.
Organizers of the Tour issued a statement on Monday saying that thecontroversy precluded Saeco’s invitation to the Tour. Instead, the French Jean Delatour team would be invited to fill the slot left open.
Simoni, last year’s winner of the Giro d’Italia, was ejected from thisyear’s edition of the Italian tour after officials released results ofan out-of-competition drug test conducted in April. While Simoni attempted to explain away the result by saying he had visited a dentist that same day, a second positive result from a test conducted during the Giro itselfled the team to suspend its rider pending his presentation of “a clearand substantial explanation of the case.” (See “Saecosuspends Simoni after second cocaine positive“)
But Saeco’s relatively quick action did not save a Tour spot for the team. Underscoring the race’s commitment to “the fight against drugs” Tour officials said Saeco was not welcome at the Tour, with or without Simoni.
“The organizers of the Tour de France are resolutely involved in thefight against drugs alongside sporting bodies and are sticking to theirdecision to not welcome any team involved in a serious affair,” the statement said. “Therefore, the Saeco team have finally been withdrawn by race organizers. For the start on July 6 in Luxembourg, an invitation has been given to French team Jean Delatour whose results have been impressive in recent weeks.”
The French team includes Patrice Halgand and Laurent Lefevre and France’sformer world champion Laurent Brochard, who himself was embroiled in theinfamous 1998 Festina scandal which nearly brought the Tour de France toa halt.
Tour de France officials Jean-Marie Leblanc and Daniel Baal said Simoni would surely be suspended by the Italian cycling federation and that his absence from Saeco had taken the gloss off the team.
“The Simoni case has brought huge discredit to the sport,” the statement added.
Saeco Teamstatement on Tour decision