Leopard SA has issued a brief statement to clarify its position with regard to Fränk Schleck, confirmed in recent days as not be rejoining the team once his 12-month ban ends next week. The Luxembourg-based team’s latest announcement follows criticism of its decision by Fränk’s brother Andy, currently riding for it in the Tour de France.
Fränk himself has expressed surprise at the decision, pointing out that his team has supported him ever since his positive test for the diuretic Xipamide during last year’s Tour de France, and has taken action less than a fortnight before his ban is due to end. He is leaving the issue in the hands of his lawyers.
Andy, quoted on Yahoo! Eurosport yesterday, said: “I can’t really understand the decision. I’m sad and disappointed but I don’t know what to say. Maybe they will use it against me and fire me as well.”
He believes the team, whose licence will be taken over by its current bike supplier Trek for the 2014 season, had been motivated by reasons other than his brother’s ban in deciding not to engage him once it expires.
“It wasn’t even anything to do with doping, even the UCI agreed on that,” he insisted.
“But there are other things behind this decision. I don’t think it is anything to do with the suspension.”
When it announced the decision to hand Fränk a partially backdated ban in January, the Agence Luxembourgeoise Anti Dopage (ALAD) said it accepted that the substance came to be in his body innocently.
Andy continued: “To kick him out of the team after 11 months of giving him their support, I just don’t understand it.”
RadioShack-Leopard team manager Luca Guercilena, who replaced Johan Bruyneel last year, said yesterday: “He [Andy] is and always will be his brother, but we have had to apply internal rules.”
In its statement today, the team’s management company said: “Leopard would like to clarify that Fränk Schleck nor his counsellors can be surprised over the decision taken by Leopard, as several meetings with Fränk Schleck have taken place between the date when the options to appeal the verdict expired and the present date.
“The decision that has been conveyed to Fränk Schleck on Wednesday corresponds perfectly to the atmosphere of these meetings.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Fabian Cancellara had signed for the new Trek team for three years from 2014. Whether Andy Schleck will join him given his brother's absence and what are likely to be strained relations with its management, which will be led by Guercilena, must be in some doubt.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.