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The reactions of cycling fans and the media to the spate of Astana-team positives have been clear to those following the news on twitter and in reports, but another group which has been more affected has been relatively silent thus far.
However Canadian pro rider Michael Woods has made his feelings clear on his Rustywoods blog, saying that the third of the five positive tests affecting the Astana WorldTour and Pro Continental teams this year grates significantly.
“Rural China is beautiful and metropolitan China blew my mind,” he said, writing about his Tour of Qinghai Lake experience. “However, until its races no longer hand out prize money in crisp clean $100 bills on the final day of competition, it is going to take a lot of money to get me back to this dystopia.
“Yes, my lungs were ravaged and I contracted some type of bacterial infection there, but what pissed me off most about Qinghai Lake, was the fact that team Astana made almost $100,000 in prize money when that money was not fairly earned.”
5-Hour Energy competitor Woods’ was referring to the 22 year old Ilya Davidenok, the Astana Continental team rider who took the overall classification plus a stage win in the race and who, in his words, was a Kazakhstan version of Ivan Drago.
“[He] made the rest of the field his bitch,” he said, pointing out that he took the yellow jersey plus the best young rider award, was second in the green jersey classification, dropped climbers on climbs and won a bunch sprint.
“There were other questionable riders at this race, but Davidenok took the level of questionability to entirely new level. Sure enough, a few weeks ago he tested positive.”
On October 16 the UCI revealed that the Kazakhstani national champion had tested positive on August 27, shortly after winning stage four of the Tour de l’Avenir. His A sample analysis revealed the presence of anabolic androgenic steroids.
Since then two other Astana Continental team riders, Victor Okishev and Artur Fedosseyev, have also tested positive for the same category of substance.
These three doping offences follow on from the earlier EPO positives of Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy. They are both Astana WorldTour team riders.
Davidenok’s doping test result rankles with Woods, but so too the way that he says the race organisers handled the matter of prizes. “Unlike most UCI races that do not release prize money until six weeks after doping controls have been cleared, Qinghai Lake, like most Chinese races that I know of, simply handed out cash like it was a drug deal.
“At the end of the 13th stage, managers from the team would walk into a room where a box of cash totalling $500,000 sat, and were simply given what they won.
“Although this practice should be awesome, as riders are often desperate to get cash asap, it also opens the door for assholes like Davidenok to come in, clean house, and get away without any repercussion.”
He is clear what the race organiser’s decision means. “Davidenok and Astana literally stole close to $100,000 from the rest of the field, and there is no way we are going to get that money back; bull-shit.”
The UCI Licence Commission is currently deciding if the Astana WorldTour team should be allowed retain its licence for 2015. Meanwhile its general manager, Alexandre Vinokourov, has told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the Astana Continental team project would be suspended indefinitely.
See Michael Woods’ blog entry here