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Sunday 10, May 2015

  Giro d’Italia May Seek Damages From UCI Over Astana Doping Affair

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Giro d’Italia May Seek Damages From UCI Over Astana Doping Affair

RCS Sport, organizer of the Giro d’Italia, has said it is ready to ask the world governing body of cycling for damages if the ongoing Astana WorldTour License case has an adverse effect on its 2015 race.

Race Director Mauro Vegni wants to avoid a repeat of Giro d’Italia of 2011 when Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador won the overall title and was stripped of the title because of an ongoing doping case stemming from the Tour de France event in 2010. The case of Contador where he defended himself against using Clenbuterol took 18 months to resolve. Vegni said he is ready to ask the UCI for damages if we should have a repeat of the 2011 case with Contador and remarked that it still bothers him to think of that Giro title they stripped. In 2011 Giro d’Italia, Italian Michele Scarponi who was placed second received the title after the case of Contador closed.

Vegni also remarked he hopes this is a Giro without controversy and a little sun, but he is worried with the Astana case still in the hands of the UCI’s license commission. The Race Director added he told Brian Cookson, the UCI President, that he does not want a team that is under investigation in the Giro d’Italia.

Vegni’s concerns may now have been answered with the UCI License Commission granting the WorldTour license to Team Astana.

This May, Team Astana’s rider Fabio Aru is one of the favorites to win the Giro along with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Team Sky’s Richie Porte, and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step). Fabio Aru finished third last year behind Colombian winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

In another development, Team Astana has revealed training methods for Grand Tour team leaders Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru who are preparing for the Ardennes Classics, the Giro del Trentino, the Tour de France, and Giro d’Italia. Nibali and Aru have been training at altitude at Teide on the Spanish island of Tenerife under the eye of Astana team coach Paolo Slongo and his assistant Maurizio Mazzoleni. Astana team coach explained that Tour de France 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali required the long training camp for clearing his mind of the responsibility and pressure of being the current winner of the Tour de France. Nibali is targeting the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege while Aru is all set to rider in Giro del Trentino before taking on Contador and Porte at the Giro d’Italia.

Slongo remarked a lot has changed for Vincenzo after winning the Tour de France. The Astana team coach said Nibali arrived at Teide a bit overloaded with all the extra things he’d been doing and let us say he was more stressed out than usual. He added the camp was useful in helping clear Nibali’s head and rediscover himself. Slongo also remarked that we worked with him a lot, on what he was missing in the first part of the season such as the changes of rhythm and above threshold efforts. He also commented that the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche-Wallonne will polish his form, while Vincenzo has something to prove at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

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Tuesday 17, Mar 2015

  Other Sports Should Order Independent Reports, Says Tour De France Boss

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Other Sports Should Order Independent Reports, Says Tour De France Boss

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has urged other international federations to “clean” and investigate their sport.

Ahead of the start of the last stage of Paris-Nice, Prudhomme said on Sunday that cycling had been at the forefront of the fight against doping after being haunted by many doping scandals. Prudhomme made these remarks after the International Cycling Union (UCI), the world governing body of cycling, published an independent report into the dirty past of cycling.

The Tour de France director was quick to welcome publication of the Independent Reform Commission’s (CIRC’s) report. Prudhomme remarked the CIRC report suggests that cycling, which became the sport that first implemented the biological passport in 2008, had shown great strength to deal with doping issues. Prudhomme added the report was ordered by the UCI and it exists because the management of the UCI wanted it, which shows that there have been improvements in a world that is not perfect but the fight against doping is a permanent fight. Prudhomme explained we are on the right track but we must not be complacent.

Prudhomme went on to remark that cycling was and is not the only sport that is hit with doping problems. He remarked cycling cannot be singled out and you cannot just put it in a corner and added that he thinks we all dream that all the international federations order an independent report to look into what’s going on in their patch. The director of the prestigious Tour de France event went on to say that the report by CIRC demonstrated that doping had not been entirely eradicated and was less prevalent with some riders still abusing corticoids and using micro-dosing to avoid detection.

The CIRC report is not exhaustive in nature. It has its share of shortcomings as the report drew conclusions with less than 6% of the interviewees being current professional riders. Prudhomme said he sees that many people from the UCI have been interviewed, which is logical because it was the primary goal of the report, but it would not have been shocking to see more professional riders being interviewed.

The UCI was quick to unveil a series of anti-doping recommendations after the CIRC report went public. The world governing body of cycling now wants night-time access to riders and “more robust” re-testing of their stored samples. The UCI will ask more of its independent anti-doping unit (CADF) and may recruit an intelligence manager to work with customs and law enforcement agencies. In addition to these recommendations, the UCI also plans to create a fit-and-proper test for team directors and doctors, re-launched whistleblower hotline, and faster prosecutions of biological passport cases.

Prudhomme applauded the recommendations and said there are already a lot of measures — just look at what cycling is doing compared with other sports. He added but the co-operation with the pharmaceutical industry is, I think, a great leap forward, which will bring quick results.

Prudhomme also said he is hopeful for a quick resolution of the Team Astana issue and remarked we all know that it can drag along. The Kazakh-funded outfit would lose their automatic Tour spot if the UCI License Commission accepts the request of the UCI and that would mean Vincenzo Nibali, the Tour de France 2014 winner, may lose out on starting the world’s greatest cycling race on July 4.

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Monday 09, Mar 2015

  Team’s Anti-Doping Measures Defended By Astana Doctor

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Team’s Anti-Doping Measures Defended By Astana Doctor

Team Astana doctor Joost de Maeseneer has defended anti-doping policies of the team and claimed that Vincenzo Nibali was tested four times in a day when he wore Tour de France leader’s jersey last year.

In an article published on the Kazakh team’s website, de Maeseneer said involvement of the team in the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) means that they have to adhere to strict anti-doping measures. The doctor said we are members of the MPCC to check cortisol levels, we follow the no-needle policy, there are no outside supplements allowed, no outside trainers, we don’t use sprays – we think this is a good idea. De Maeseneer added we joined the MPCC in 2013 – not all the teams in the WorldTour are members of the MPCC and said that we think this should not be the case  He went on to remark that it adds to the overall number of blood tests we do in a year and said he would say the top riders are tested approximately no less than 50 times per year and also remarked that Vincenzo Nibali was once tested four times in 24 hours at the Tour.

The words of De Maeseneer came after the UCI, the world governing body of cycling, asked its License Commission to withdraw the WorldTour license of Team Astana after anomalies were thrown up during an independent audit in the team’s procedures. This recommendation was made by the UCI after it received audit on the Astana team’s practices from the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne. In a statement, the UCI revealed the audit revealed a big difference between the policies and structures that the team presented to the License Commission in December and the reality on the ground. The decision taken by the cycling’s governing body is not solely based on the audit as the UCI also reflected on evidence offered by Italian authorities in the context of Padova files that features a number of Astana riders.

The UCI statement also said the Italian authorities have provided the UCI with the sections of the Padova investigation which it has been authorized to share. It was also mentioned that as some evidence concerns Astana Pro Team members, the file has been passed to the License Commission as part of this referral and added the UCI for the sake of due process is not in a position to comment further on the content of the audit report, nor the Padova investigation, until the License Commission has assessed the situation and rendered its decision. But this decision to refer the matter to the License Commission was reached taking all circumstances and potential consequences into consideration.

Like Team Astana, De Maeseneer is not new to controversies. In his tell-all book The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton said De Maeseneer gave illegal prescriptions to riders at team CSC. Jorg Jaksche said in a 2007 interview that he and his teammates took cortisone “all season long” in his 2004 year with team CSC. The doctor then replied that the team only worked with “ethical, professional way” and did not use prohibited substances. De Maeseneer indicated that the doping cases of Team Astana last year were not part of an organized system and were isolated events and remarked that the team has everything in place for riders who want to succeed without doping.

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Monday 01, Dec 2014

  Astana Feeder Squad Suspended By Alexander Vinokourov

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Astana Feeder Squad Suspended By Alexander Vinokourov

Team Astana manager Alexander Vinokourov has reportedly provisionally suspended the Astana Continental Team. This step was taken after a third rider from its ranks failed anti-doping controls.

In August, rider Artur Fedosseyev tested positive on a sample taken at the Tour de l’Ain, while Victor Okishev and Ilya Davidenok both shown to have used anabolic androgenic steroids from samples taken at races in May and August, respectively.

Vinokourov seems to have used his influence to have the Astana feeder squad suspended despite the fact that he is not the manager of the continental squad. Vinokourov remarked people have to understand that Astana Continental Team has nothing to do with the Astana WorldTour team.

Kairat Kelimbetov, President of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation, resigned and was replaced by Darkan Mangeldiev, a close friend of Alexander Vinokourov. In a statement, Team Astana said the managing board of Kazakhstan Cycling Federation has decided to suspend the activity of the Astana Continental Team while an internal investigation into doping cases is carried out and added Dmitri Sedoun, the general manager of Astana Continental team, has been dismissed from his position.

Vinokourov remarked the young riders are crazy if they still haven’t understood that there is no place for doping in cycling. The Astana general manager said he wants the provisional suspension to be a signal, a blast in their ear of our foundation. Vinokourov added people must understand that they have nothing to do with us. The only thing they have in common is the jersey and the name and added there is no problem for the license and remarked we have given all the information that we have been asked about.

Recently, Team Astana star rider Vincenzo Nibali said the four idiots (Iglinskiy brothers, who both popped for EPO, and Victor Okishev and Ilya Davidenok) have nothing to do with him. Nibali, winner of the Tour de France 2014 title, staunchly defended his team’s track record. Nibali expressed confidence that the team would be riding in the WorldTour next year after the license committee hearing.

Kazakh Cycling Federation (KCF) president Kairat Kelimbetov said the body, in conjunction with the Astana Pro Team management, will carry out a thorough investigation of the doping cases in the Continental team. Kelimbetov added our strategic policy is for clean Kazakhstan cycling and he can assure all that the investigation will be organized in full accordance with the UCI rules and its outcome to be announced in due course.

UCI president Brian Cookson said its four-member License Commission is presently reviewing the situation and license of Team Astana. Cookson remarked it is safe to say that everyone in the cycling world is very disappointed by this turn of events. The UCI President added but if we assume that there have been three cases [now five], that’s something that’s obviously very, very serious, and that’s why we’ve referred it to the licensing commission, asking them to look into all the issues around that and make recommendations as to what impact these issues should have on the license of Astana.

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Friday 21, Nov 2014

  Astana Hit By Another Doping Scandal

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Astana Hit By Another Doping Scandal

UCI Continental Team Astana Kazakh rider Victor Okishev has tested positive for a banned substance. Okishev, who rides for Astana’s reserve team, failed a test for anabolic steroids during the Asian championships last May. The 20-year-old from Kazakhstan has been provisionally suspended from competition because of the positive test.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced Victor Okishev’s sample gave an Adverse Analytical Finding of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids in a sample collected at the Asian Cycling Championships on 29 May 2014. In a statement, the UCI said the rider has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample.

Okishev is the second member of the Astana reserve team to be suspended. Last month, Ilya Davidenok was banned for testing positive for steroids during the Tour de l’Avenir in August. In October this year, brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), which promotes the count of red blood cells in the body. Valentin failed an anti-doping test on August 11 while Maxim failed the test on August 1. Maxim Iglinskiy was part of the Tour de France line-up of Team Astana that saw the team’s Vincenzo Nibali take the overall victory.

Nibali was furious to learn of the doping positives and recently remarked that Astana suffers due to its past, for things that happened in another era. He remarked Vinokourov wasn’t even the manager when the team signed Jakob Fuglsang, Fabio Aru, and him, precisely with the objective of changing the image of the team and earning some credibility. The three-time grand tour winner added the sponsors in Kazakhstan are very angry with the Iglinskiy brothers, and he strongly believes that our sport is cleaner today compared to other times in cycling.

The Astana team is run by Alexandre Vinokourov, controversial former rider, who was banned for blood doping in 2007-2009. Vinokourov is presently under investigation for alleged race fixing and bribery.

Team Astana is a member of the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible (Movement for Credible Cycling or MPCC) that enforces stricter anti-doping rules than the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In accordance with the MPCC rules, Astana suspended itself for the season-ending Tour of Beijing last month as it had two doping cases in the team in the past 12 months.

On November 6, the team appeared at a UCI hearing in Geneva and a decision on its future for the next season is expected to be out in the next two weeks. The UCI’s License Commission is deciding whether or not to refuse Team Astana a license to race next year, or to attach conditions to their license.

Team Astana is facing legal complications from every corner. Recently, Astana rider Lieuwe Westra was caught by police on radar after he was found driving at 189 kilometers per hour (118mph) in the northern part of the Netherlands. Westra finished second in the Paris-Nice stage race in 2012 riding for Vacansoleil. He joined Astana this year to help Vincenzo Nibali win the Tour de France.

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Monday 28, Jul 2014

  Nibali Wins 2014 Tour De France, Praises Doping Controls

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Nibali Wins 2014 Tour De France, Praises Doping Controls

Vincenzo Nibali emerged on Sunday as the first Italian winner of the Tour de France in 16 years on Sunday. The Italian rider praised the efforts of cycling’s anti-doping agencies before he won the coveted trophy.

The 29-year-old said he would not be here if there had not been all these controls, targeted controls, and the biological passport. In 2008, Nibali finished 19th in the Tour that was the same year in which the biological passport was implemented by the International Cycling Union (UCI). The Astana rider remarked a lot of progress has been made and we can see the results now. Nibali also added he is ready to accept the idea that his samples would be stored for future testing.

After his Tour win, Nibali said the Vuelta for him was the most important because it showed him that he could aim to win big tours like the Giro and the Tour in the following years. The Italian professional road bicycle racer, considered one of the strongest stage race riders in the world, added it is obvious that for him (as Italian) the Giro is very important but it is also special for the Italian fans and added but what makes the Tour so much bigger is the international attention it demands.

Vincenzo Nibali added he has taken his place in the history of the Tour and that is very important, but those others also made their names in other great races, such as the classics. Nibali added he never thought about making history, and said he just concentrated on trying to win the Tour, like he won the Giro and the Vuelta, because he is a stage racer. The cyclist went on to add that of course there are other races that he want to win, like the Tour of Lombardy in which he had come close many times but not had the luck or the World Championships, which he tried to win last year, or Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Astana rider added he had always liked these races and he did like to try to win them, even though he is more suited to stage races.

Nibali joins Italian Felice Gimondi, Belgian Eddy Merckx, Spaniard Alberto Contador, and Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil as the only men to have won all three Grand Tours. He also joined five other cyclists, including Eddy Merckx, who have won all three of cycling’s grand tours — the Tour, the Vuelta a España, and the Giro d’Italia.

His previous best finish in the Tour de France was third place, behind Britain’s Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in 2012.

Nibali’s Tour win was benefited from the misfortunes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Froome quit early after three crashes and Contador (who was stripped of his Tour de France 2010 win for using Clenbuterol, a banned substance) hit a hole in the pavement and broke his leg. Nibali won decisive four stages of the Tour, including the Vosges, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. The rider also wore the yellow jersey as the race leader for 19 of the 21 stages.

On Saturday evening, Nibali had remarked the Tour de France this year was a great race, very different than the Tours we’ve had in the past. He added it was just about made to measure for him and it was very difficult from the beginning.

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