Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali says he is committed to Astana despite this week’s news of a fifth rider associated with the team failing a drugs test. Meanwhile team manager Alexandre Vinokourov says he has suspended the Kazakh outfit’s under-23 UCI Continental team.
That decision was prompted by the news this week that a third rider from that team, Artur Fedosseyev had tested positive for a banned steroid, as had team mates Ilya Davidenok and Victor Okishev.
Two riders from Astana’s UCI WorldTour team, the brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, meanwhile, tested positive for EPO in August, Valentin admitting doping, and Maxim as good as doing so after declining to exercise his right to have his B Sample analysed.
Following the first three failed tests – those of the Iglinskiy brothers and Davidenok – the UCI said its Licence Commission would review Astana’s management and anti-doping policies, potentially putting its WorldTour licence at risk.
The investigation focuses on both the Kazakh team’s squads, although both Nibali and Vinokourov insist the two are operated separately – in which case, an explanation is lacking regarding how Vinokourov could take steps to suspend the under-23 outfit from racing.
Sky Sports News reports that Nibali told Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that he remains confident that Astana will keep its licence.
"I'm sure I've made the right choice,” he said. "I'm sure the team is going to be given its racing licence, but if some absurd reason that doesn't happen, I'm not leaving, even though I would have every right to.
"It's not just me who is tied up with this team. I have my inner circle of people. There's a group of about six or seven of us. Where do I go?
"Astana has invested in us and we feel good here. I believe in them and they believe in me.”
He insisted that the two Astana teams operated separately from one another, and that the two positive cases involving riders from the senior squad had nothing to do with it.
"Let's be clear. Astana and Astana 2 [the Continental team] are two different things. We've had two cases with the Iglinskiy brothers, but that was a family affair.
"The other three – I don't even know what they look like – are idiots. I don't know what they have been up to...maybe they were motivated by the idea of getting a contract here and earning a good wage.
"But that's their business. The team has already taken action. The Continental set-up has been suspended and [its manager Dmitri] Sedoun has been removed," he added.
While Davidenok’s positive test resulted from a sample taken while riding for the Astana Continental team at the Tour de l’Avenir in August, earlier that month he had joined the WorldTour team as a stagiaire.
He, Fedosseyev and Okishev all rode for Kazakhstan in the Tour of Almaty at the end of that month, a race that Nibali also took part in.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.