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Leopard SA reasserts position on Fränk Schleck as he and brother Andy hit back

Brothers say no prior warning given that Fränk wouldn't ride for it again once ban expires next week...

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.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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