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T-Mobile team leader Jan Ullrich of Germany won the Tour de France in 1997. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press)

A doping scandal in Spain that has rocked the Tour de France will keep two of the race's top contenders out of this year's event.

The cycling race, which begins Saturday, is already without the retired Lance Armstrong, who won't defend the crown he has held for seven years.

Now the event will be minus Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, two of the sport's most accomplished riders.

Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France champion, was suspended from the race along with T-Mobile teammate Oscar Sevilla and team sporting director Rudy Pevenage.

Ullrich has also placed second five times in the Tour de France, including three times to Armstrong.

When asked whether T-Mobile would consider cutting ties with Ullrich completely,team spokesman Stefan Wagnerreplied, "certainly … we are now demanding evidence of his innocence."

Basso, who placed 11th in 2002, seventh in 2003, third in 2004, and second in 2005, plus Spanish racers Francisco Mancebo and Joseba Beloki were also barred from the race. Basso rides for the CSC team.

Tour organizers hadpreviously sought to have the entire Astana-Wurth team, which includes Beloki and favourite Alexandre Vinokourov, excluded. However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against it on Thursday.

In a statement, team T-Mobile said information presented to the organization contradicted claims of innocence by Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenage.

The team said facts point tothe three riders having contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor who was arrested in the probe.

"Our stance was always unequivocal," said Christian Frommert, director of sports communication for T-Mobile International. "If we are presented with evidence which leads us to doubt the credibility of one or other of our riders, then we act upon it immediately.

"That is the case now.

"At first we had no reason to doubt the riders' statements. Therefore, we couldn't make any decision merely based on speculations, rumours and guesses," Frommert said.

"This situation has now changed profoundly. Accordingly, we will now live up to our responsibility towards making cycling a clean sport."

Before Armstrong, the last person to wear the yellow jersey into Paris on the final day of the race was Marco Pantani, who won in 1998.