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The positive tests for EPO recorded by both Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy have caused their Astana team to miss the Tour of Beijing due to the rules of the MPCC anti-doping organisation of which it is a member, but there may be more serious repercussions for the squad.
The UCI has expressed concerns that two riders from the same team have been shown to be using banned substances, and said Wednesday that it will take the matter up with the Kazakh squad.
“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 said in a statement.
“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.”
Astana was one of ten teams named by the UCI on Wednesday as having WorldTour licences already in place for 2015. The applications of each of these plus the seven teams applying for a renewal will be considered by the Licence Commission, after which each will learn if their candidature has satisfied the necessary requirements.
It remains to be seen if the UCI will conclude that the Iglinskiy positives were isolated cases independent from the team, or instead decide that there was a more serious reason for the doping results.
Fine possible over decision to miss final WorldTour event:
Meanwhile it said that it will also examine the team’s decision not to travel to the Tour of Beijing. While the MPCC has a rule requiring all member teams to miss the next WorldTour race after two positive cases, the UCI has indicated it is in disagreement with this.
“Questions have been raised as to whether the UCI will apply its rules regarding fines for UCI WorldTour teams if Astana Pro Team does not race at the Tour of Beijing as a result of the team suspending itself,” it stated.
“We confirm that the financial penalties contained in the UCI Rules under such circumstances will indeed be applicable. The final decision regarding the fine will be made by the UCI Disciplinary Commission. Until a decision has been reached, the UCI will not comment any further on this issue.”
Were the UCI to go ahead and fine the team, it would go against the precedent set when Ag2r La Mondiale missed the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné due to the positives of Sylvain Georges and Steve Houanard.
On that occasion the UCI’s Professional Cycling Council examined the matter and decided not to apply any fine.
One difference between the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour of Beijing is that the UCI’s race promotion wing Global Cycling Promotions owns the latter race.
While this increases the stakes for the UCI if one of its top teams doesn’t take part, it must weigh that up against the potential public relations issue it could face if it penalises a team which has voluntarily accepted a more strict anti-doping punishment.
Team tactics had been questioned:
Separate to that, Astana came under criticism when it appeared to dance around the MPCC rules. It initially worked around the MPCC requirement to begin an eight day break in competition from the start of the next WorldTour race, saying that Maxim Iglinskiy had decided to get his B sample tested.
This contrasted with his brother Valentin’s decision not to contest the A sample result of his own positive test for the same product.
Stating that the elder brother wanted the retest meant that he wasn’t officially in a position to be sanctioned. This enabled Astana to ride last weekend’s Il Lombardia and the Tour of Almaty. The former is one of the most important Classics in the season while the latter is the top race in Kazakhstan.
The likely delay in receiving the result of the B test mean that there was a chance the team would be able to ride the Tour of Beijing, but would have to sit out next year’s Santos Tour Down Under.
Instead, the team stated on Monday that Iglinskiy had decided to waive his right to the B sample analysis. As a result, Astana said it wouldn’t ride the Tour of Beijing. This consequently frees it up to ride the early season Santos Tour Down Under, a more important event in view of it being the first WorldTour race of the new year, and also because it helps the riders hit good form prior to later events.