Alexandre Vinokourov, general manager of UCI ProTeam cycling squad Astana, has said its associated second-tier Continental team has been suspended amid a growing doping scandal, but he remains confident the top-tier outfit will retain its WorldTour licence for the 2015 season.
Artur Fedosseyev yesterday (Wednesday) became the third rider from the Astana Continental team since May to test positive for anabolic androgenic steroids. Fedosseyev gave a positive sample at the Tour de l’Ain in August, while Victor Okishev and Ilya Davidenok also tested positive for the banned substance at events in May and August respectively.
Despite both Kazakh cycling outfits being managed separately and Vinokourov only serving as general manager of the main Astana team, his comments in Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that he does have the power to suspend the Continental-level outfit.
The team and the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation are yet to formalise any suspension or charges.
“People have to understand that they (the Continental team) has nothing to do with this team (the Astana WorldTour team),” Vinokourov told Gazzetta. “The only thing we have in common is the jersey and the name.
“The young riders are crazy if they still haven't understood that there is no place for doping in cycling. I want this to be a signal, a blast in their ear of our Federation. As we've often requested, the Kazakh Federation has to do more controls and be more severe. They've got our full support.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Astana, Vinokourov told the newspaper that he remains confident over obtaining a licence for the main team to compete in the WorldTour next season. He said: “There is no problem for the licence. We’ve given all the explanations that were asked for.”
The International Cycling Union (UCI) last month asked the sport’s licence commission to review the status of Astana after a third positive doping test this year emerged from the leading WorldTour team. Astana already has a WorldTour licence for the 2015 season. However, the UCI said that the team could have “conditions attached to their licence.”
The UCI said at the time: “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will ask the License Commission to undertake a full review of the management and anti-doping policies of the Astana Pro Team. This follows the serious concerns raised by the fact that two Astana riders, Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, recently tested positive for EPO and the notification this week that Ilya Davidenok has returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for anabolic androgenic steroids in a sample collected at the Tour de l’Avenir on 28th August 2014."
Astana, whose riders include Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, are a member of the MPCC, the Movement for Credible Cycling, which enforces stricter anti-doping rules than the World Anti-Doping Agency.