The Tour de France has been thrown into turmoil as several of the top riders, including former champion Jan Ullrich of Germany and Tour of Italy winner Ivan Basso, have been barred from cycling's premier event.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said team managers agreed that riders implicated in a Spanish drug scandal would not be allowed to race. The scandal has exploded in recent days, with Spain's Civil Guard naming more than 50 professional riders in its investigation.
The T-Mobile team suspended Ullrich, the 1997 champion and a five-time Tour de France runner-up, along with Spain's Oscar Sevilla and sporting director Rudi Pevenge. CSC suspended Basso, this year's Tour of Italy champion and last year's Tour de France runner-up.
Late Friday, the Spanish team Astana decided to pull five of its nine Tour de France riders. That left the team - which was just cleared to compete on Thursday - with fewer than the minimum six riders in the Tour. That knocked another favorite - Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan - out of the event.
Meanwhile another star rider, Francisco Mancebo of Spain, decided to end his career after being suspended. The former AG2R rider told the team manager that he was quitting the sport.
Several riders have been implicated because of their relationship with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, one of five people arrested and charged with crimes against public health in May. Police seized steroids, hormones and the endurance-booster EPO when they raided a Madrid clinic.
The Tour will now start with 20 teams instead of 21. The race starts Saturday with a seven-kilometer prologue in Strasbourg and ends July 23 in Paris.