Andy Schleck is upset but biting his tongue over a decision by RadioShack Leopard Trek team bosses to cut ties with his brother Frank, saying today that if he says what he really thinks, "they might use it against me and fire me as well."
Outside the team bus before the seventh stage to the Tour de France, the 2010 Tour champion told reporters that he couldn't understand the decision a day earlier by key sponsor Leopard SA that it would not renew Frank Schleck's contract after his ban for doping expires.
"I'm sad and disappointed, and if I tell you what I honestly think they might use it against me and fire me as well," said Andy Schleck, a 28-year-old climbing specialist and leader of the RadioShack team.
Frank Schleck, 33, is the older half of Luxembourg's top cycling duo. He's sitting out this Tour because of a one-year suspension for a positive test for a diuretic in last year's race - but had been hoping to ride in the Spanish Vuelta after the ban runs out.
The younger Schleck said he had spoken to his brother, who he said was also disappointed, and reiterated he would never ride against Frank.
Asked how he could stay motivated after such a team decision, Andy Schleck said: "We cannot blame the whole team, this is coming from the board of the team. It's for sure not the guys, not the sport directors sitting in the bus - it's coming from the team board."
"I can't understand this decision after 11 months, telling us 'we support you'," he said. "We know it had nothing to do with doping. Everybody knows that it had nothing to do with doping. And after 11 months, to kick him out of the team like that, it's not nice."
At last year's Tour, Frank Schleck tested positive for xipamide - a substance that the World Anti-Doping Agency describes as "more susceptible to a credible, non-doping explanation." Bans for such substances are often shorter, and athletes have a better chance of proving they did not intend to consume it or enhance their performance.
Cycling's image has been battered by many doping scandals in recent years. Last year, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour titles and later admitted to doping. Andy Schleck inherited the 2010 Tour title only after Spain's Alberto Contador lost it in a doping case.
Andy Schleck was 34th overall, 34 seconds behind leader Daryl Impey of South Africa as the 205.5-kilometer stage from Montpellier to Albi began.