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UCI: Tour cyclists won't risk being banned from Beijing

GENEVA -- Cyclists riding in the Tour de France will not risk being barred from the Beijing Olympics, despite a feud between race organizers and the sport's governing body.

"It's in our capacity but it's not in our heart to sanction athletes that have prepared for four years for an Olympic Games," International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The UCI is in conflict with Tour organizer ASO, which confirmed Tuesday it will stage the July 5-27 race under French national federation authority, ignoring the governing body's rules and doping controls.

The UCI, which runs the Olympic cycling program, responded with a warning that "riders and teams will, by participating, expose themselves to sanctions."

But McQuaid said cyclists selected by their country for Beijing would not be victimized.

"No matter how grave the situation might be or how disloyal we feel the French federation has been to the UCI, I don't see the Olympic Games being touched," McQuaid said.

The long-running dispute flared up before the Paris-Nice stage race in March when the UCI first urged teams and riders to boycott the ASO-organized event and then warned it could fine and suspend those taking part.

The race went ahead and McQuaid later initiated disciplinary action against Jean Pitallier, the French federation president who said Tuesday he could see no end to the conflict.

Lawyers for the sides met in Geneva last month and the UCI's next step will be decided at a meeting of the 19-member management board in Copenhagen, Denmark, next week.

"Nothing is beyond repair," said McQuaid, who will not take part in the board's discussion or decision. "But what we cannot have is one set of rules for France and one set for the rest of the world."