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Reputation damaged by a total of five positive tests from the Astana WorldTour and Continental teams in the latter half of 2014, Alexandre Vinokourov has said that regaining people’s trust is a major priority for the setup.
“We want to get our credibility back as a matter of urgency,” the WorldTour team’s general manager said at the team presentation held prior to the Dubai Tour, according to Sporza.
The team’s woes began last autumn when it emerged that the brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy both tested positive for EPO in August. The situation was exacerbated for the team when one if its stagiaries, Kazakhstan’s national champion Ilya Davidenok, was found to have traces of anabolic androgenic steroids in his system.
He had started the year as a member of the Astana Continental team and two more riders from that squad, Artur Fedosseyev and Victor Okishev, also tested positive for the same substance.
The five positive cases connected to the two Astana teams led to the UCI asking its Licence Commission to undertake a review of the WorldTour team’s licence.
That commission finally confirmed a probational licence for Astana in December, but said that the licence was subject to several conditions.
Once of those was that the team would be independently audited by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) to determine “to what extent the team and or/its management is responsible of the recent events.”
It said that the audit would also seek to “assess the team’s internal structures, culture and management systems to understand whether these are adequate to ensure that the highest ethical standards are upheld.”
The UCI told CyclingTips last week that the report will be issued in early Feburary, as had been anticipated.
Vinokourov confirmed that the report was indeed nearly finished. “I went into the last detail in explaining the functioning of the team,” he said. “Each doctor has five to six riders [to deal with], each team leader also. Every three or four days there is contact with the riders and there is also an internal control system.
“I don’t see what more we can do.”
Following the various positive cases Vinokourov – who himself incurred a ban for blood doping during his own career – said that the riders were all acting independently of the team and that there was no systematic problem in either squad.
He is continuing to stand by that assertion.
“I can hardly put each rider under guard,” he said. “We still want to win Grand Tours, but we will prove that we are credible.”
However he faulted the young riders of the country, saying that they didn’t have the right mentality.
“With all the policy makers of our country, I am convinced that the culture of the Kazakh youth must change urgently,” he said. “They think they cannot win without false means.
“We carry the biological passport in approximately 5,000 affiliated young people. And those who put the young people on the wrong track need to be addressed.”
Vinokourov’s claims about having such a large biological passport need to be verified, however, due to what is the enormous cost of the programme for several hundred WorldTour riders. That anti-doping programme costs millions of euros and so it seems unlikely that the Kazah system has the same in place for so many more competitors.