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PARIS, France -- International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid has threatened to punish teams that decide to take part in next month's Paris-Nice race, French sports daily L'Equipe reported on Wednesday.
"If you decide, against the rules, to take part in Paris-Nice, you will be heavily penalized," McQuaid said in a letter sent to four French teams -- AG2R, Francaise des Jeux, Cofidis and Bouygues Telecom.
The week-long race, which starts on March 11, was dropped from the UCI's Pro-Tour, following a dispute with organizers Amaury Sport Organization (ASO).
"I cannot imagine being punished. Why would people be prevented from doing their job?," Francaise des Jeux manager Marc Madiot told L'Equipe
"If we cannot race, we are consequently not allowed to do our job," his Cofidis counterpart Eric Boyer added.
Rabobank, T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner and France's Cofidis, Bouygues Telecom and Francaise des Jeux said last Friday they would defy the sport's governing body and compete in the race.
The UCI wrote to all 20 teams on its Pro-Tour, telling them it no longer recognized the race and ordering them not to enter.
The dispute dates back to January when the ASO, who also organize the Tour de France, turned down the application of Swedish team Unibet.com, a member of the Pro-Tour's elite.
Teams use the Paris-Nice as preparation for the Pro-Tour spring classics such as Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Fleche Wallonne and the Amstel Gold Race.
UCI officials asked for a meeting with ASO to try to settle the issue but no agreement has been found.
The UCI can refuse to send commissioners to the Paris-Nice but the federations of France, Italy, Spain and Belgium have said they are prepared to help the ASO with the race organization.
McQuaid has told teams that they will be heavily penalized for competing.