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Reacting to yet another positive test pertaining to an Astana-linked team, Alexandre Vinokourov has suspended the Continental squad connected to the latest doping issue.
The move follows Wednesday’s announcement by the UCI that the Kazakhstani rider Artur Fedosseyev had a positive A sample for anabolic androgenic steroids in a test taken on August 16.
The 20 year old rider was competing with the Astana Continental team this season. He is the third rider from the squad to test positive for anabolic androgenic steroids; on October 16 the UCI revealed that a third rider, Kazakhstan’s national champion Ilya Davidenok, tested positive on August 27, while Victor Okishev was confirmed as having a positive A sample on November 18.
Davidenok, Okishev and Fedosseyev all raced with the Astana Continental team this year, although the first of those became a stagiarie with the WorldTour Astana team in August.
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday, Vinokourov confirmed that he had “suspended the Continental team indefinitely. The young riders are crazy if they have not yet realized that this is no longer the cycling of doping.
“I want this to be a signal, a blast in their ear of our federation,” he continued. “As we’ve often requested, the Kazakh Federation has to do more controls and be more severe. They’ve got our full support.”
La Gazzetta confirmed that the federation itself is undergoing a big change, with the president Kairat Kelimbetov, who apparently had significant control over Continental team, being forced to hand over power to Vinokourov’s friend Darkan Mangeldiev.
Crisis in Kazakhstani cycling
The run of Astana-linked positives began this autumn when UCI confirmed on September 10 that Valentin Iglinskiy had failed a doping test taken on the opening day of the Eneco Tour on August 11.
The A sample had revealed traces of EPO. The rider waived the right to have his B sample tested and was fired from the Astana team.
On October 1st the UCI’s list of provisionally suspended riders revealed that his older brother Maxim Iglinskiy had also failed an A sample test for the same substance.
The former Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Strade Bianche winner was part of Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France winning team and was tested on August 1st, one day before he finished 26th in the Clasica San Sebastian.
He too has decided against getting the B sample tested, although not before the Astana team indicated that he would do so and were able to ride Il Lombardia and the Tour of Almaty as a result.
A member of the MPCC anti-doping organisation, the team would otherwise have had to sit out those races under that body’s rules.
The news of the positive tests for Davidenok, Okishev and Fedosseyev subsequently followed.
Inevitably, the five positives between two identically-titled teams has led to calls for strict action to be taken. The UCI’s Licence Commission is already investigating the WorldTour team over the positive tests by the Iglinskiy brothers, and is expected to announce that decision early next month.
Some have interpreted Vinokourov’s suspension of the Astana Continental team as a bid to appear to be acting against doping and to separate the two squads, thus trying to avoid being punished by the Licence Commission.
Indeed he insists that the two WorldTour team positives and the other three must be considered separately. “People must understand that this is another reality that has nothing to do with this,” he said. “We only have jerseys and a name in common.”
However, as La Gazzetta points out, Vinokourov had the power to suspend the smaller team, implying some element of control over it. In addition to that, the Continental team’s manager Dmitri Sedoun is also a directeur sportif of the WorldTour team.
Despite all this, Vinokourov believes that the WorldTour team will be cleared to remain in the UCI’s top division when the Licence Commission makes its decision.
“There is no problem for the license,” he said. “We have provided all the explanations that have been requested.”