Outside the team bus before Friday's seventh stage of the Tour de France, the 2010 champion said he couldn't understand the decision a day earlier by key sponsor Leopard SA to decide against renewing 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.
"OK, the product was there but it can happen to anyone. I can't believe, no one can believe, that he did that on purpose," teammate Jan Bakelants said after Friday's stage. "I think he's already been punished enough for what happened."
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 title only after Alberto Contador lost it in a doping case.
Andy Schleck finished Friday's 205.5-kilometre stage from Montpellier to Albi tucked into the main bunch in 68th place. He is 33rd overall, and sits 34 seconds behind race leader Daryl Impey heading into Saturday's eighth stage in the high mountains of the Pyrenees.Suggest a correction