Merckx rubbishes claims Astana received preferential treatment
FIVE-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx has hit out at the French Anti-Doping Agency for claiming Astana received favourable treatment from drugs testers in this year's Tour.
SPEAKING OUT: Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx accuses AFLD of hunting publicity
According to reports in French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro earlier this week, the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) have issued a ten-page document detailing how they feel Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, among others including Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong, was treated favourably by the UCI testers.
"The Astana team benefited from a privileged treatment from the UCI officials," read an extract published in Le Monde.
But Belgium's Merckx, who claimed the yellow jersey on five occasions between 1969 and 1974 and won 34 individual stages during the Tour de France, believes it's time the AFLD stopped victimising cycling.
"It's all just publicity from them - it's crazy," said Merckx, speaking at the Cycle Show in Earls Court.
"It's stupid, it's really stupid.
"It's just about them making publicity for themselves and it's not correct what they're doing - especially when they only talk about cycling and not other sports.
"These things will always come out about cycling but it's just publicity for them. I don't understand why it has come out and there is nothing worthy behind it."
Contador has claimed victory in the last two editions of the Tour de France in which he has competed - 2007 and 2009 - having not been invited to the 2008 race as a result of Astana's chequered drugs history.
July's race marked the return of 38-year-old Armstrong to the Tour after four years out of the saddle, but he could not add to his tally seven victories as he was forced to settle for third.
The race also represented a breakthrough for Olympic track champion Bradley Wiggins on the road, who was fourth but Merckx is convinced it is Contador who currently tops the pile.
"Contador is the man to beat - he's the most complete rider in the stage races. He's a good time-trial rider, he's a good climber and he can control the race on the flat," he added.
"He is a great rider but you also have the likes of [Andy] Schleck, Armstrong and Wiggins and maybe next year we'll have some other riders come through in the stage races.
"If you're talented and a complete rider then it's not impossible to break through but at the moment we have some very strong stage race riders and Contador is top."