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Expected to be grilled by the UCI over the two positive tests for EPO by its riders Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, the Astana team has spoken about the cases and insisted it has nothing to hide.
The Kazakhstan squad issued a statement Friday and lamented the positives. “This unfortunate event has led to concerns over the efficiency of internal measures taken to ensure that riders do not use prohibited substance or methods,” it stated.
“Astana Pro Team is deeply disappointed that these events have occurred, and reaffirms its absolute zero-tolerance policy towards all incidents of doping and unethical activity.”
On September 9th the UCI disclosed that Valentin Iglinskiy failed a doping test taken on August 11 on the opening stage of the Eneco Tour. The A sample from that control showed traces of EPO and, when the rider opted not to have the B sample tested, he became liable for a lengthy suspension.
The 30 year old is a past winner of stages in races such as the Tour of Qinghai Lake, the Tour of Bulgaria, the Presidential Tour of Turkey and the Tour du Loir et Cher, and took the overall classification in the Tour of Hainan in both 2010 and 2011.
On October 1 the UCI’s list of provisional suspensions showed that his 33 year old brother Maxim Iglinskiy had also provided a positive A sample for EPO.
That test was carried out on August 1st, one day before he finished 26th in the Clasica San Sebastian and ten days before his younger brother’s own control.
The Astana team quickly stated that he would have his B sample tested, with this delay in reaching a final result enabling it to start both Il Lombardia and the Tour of Almaty, two major targets. The latter is the biggest cycling event in Kazakhstan and missing it would have been embarrassing for both the team and its sponsors.
The team would otherwise have had to sat out the events as it is a member of the MPCC anti-doping organisation, which has a regulation dictating that in the event of two positive tests in one year, that teams must take a seven day break from competition starting from the next WorldTour event.
As was predicted by some, the team later said that the rider had reversed his decision to get his B sample analysed. This meant that the team would forgo riding the Tour of Beijing, but would be able to compete in January’s Santos Tour Down Under instead.
In its statement on Friday, the Astana team said that its decision to abide by the MPCC rules meant that it was holding itself to a higher standard than the usual UCI regulations.
It acknowledged that it would likely face a UCI disciplinary commission fine for missing the race, something the UCI confirmed was possible on Wednesday.
Astana under scrutiny
In that same statement on Wednesday, the UCI said that it was not impressed by what had happened.
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) views the positive tests for EPO by two riders of the same team – Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy – as an extremely serious situation and one which raises questions about the management of the team and the ethics which are upheld within it,” it stated.
“We will be discussing this with the team to see whether we are satisfied that they are doing all they can to ensure their riders do not use performance enhancing drugs. Once we have reviewed the situation, we will see if there are changes we believe need to be made internally at the team or indeed whether we should attach conditions to their licence going forward which are consistent with the WADA Code.”
The team’s response Friday sought to reassure both the UCI and also cycling media and fans that the Iglinskiy brothers’ doping use was unbeknownst to Astana. Time will tell if these words are genuine or simply damage limitation.
“Astana Pro Team is conducting an internal investigation, and wishes to reassure the UCI and the general public that preliminary findings demonstrate that the events are of an isolated nature, and that no other member of Astana Pro Team knew or took part,” it said.
“Astana Pro Team will investigate the events more thoroughly in the following weeks, and will request an audit of its own stringent anti-doping policy to identify whether even stronger measures would be possible and legally enforceable.”
It added that General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov had provided the UCI with a copy of its current anti-doping policy and also briefed the governing body as to the first measures it took to remind riders and staff of its rules.
It said that it was looking forward to meeting with the UCI and answering all questions put to it.
It also said that it would encourage the cooperation of the Iglinskiy brothers in their providing further information about their cases.
“As part of the effort to underline its unwavering commitment to a clean sport, Astana Pro Team has also invited Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy to contact the CIRC (Cycling Independent Reform Commission) and will certainly implement recommendations contained in the CIRC’s report to help all teams in enforcing their own internal anti-doping rules.”