Astana has today been confirmed as starting the season’s final Monument, Il Lombardia, this weekend – but whether its riders will be on the start line on Sunday remains to be seen.
road.cc understand there is much discussion going on behind the scenes as to whether the Kazakh team should voluntarily withdraw or be persuaded to voluntarily withdraw following yesterday's news that Maxim Iglinskiy has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for EPO.
Last month the team sacked his brother, Valentin Iglinskiy, when he admitted having used the same substance. According to a UCI document, his positive test took place on 11 August, whilst his brother’s came on 1 August – just days after he had helped Vincenzo Nibali win the Tour de France.
Astana is signed up to the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), whose rules require that any team belonging to it signed up must suspend themselves from racing where two riders have tested positive in the preceding 12 months, for a period of eight days from when they became aware of the second positive test.
That eight-day period begins with the date of the following UCI WorldTour race, but a note to the relevant MPCC rules clarifies that the date of the second positive test is linked to that of the B sample taken from the rider, and the organisation has said that it will not require Astana unless that is tested and proves positive, or if the rider confesses to doping.
However, road.cc understands that according to a source close to the situation, considerable pressure is mounting on Astana both from other teams – possibly fellow members of the MPCC – and Il Lombardia organisers RCS Sport for the outfit to withdraw from that race, with the situation generating a lot of discussion behind the scenes.
Should Astana voluntarily suspend itself beginning with Il Lombardia, it would also miss next week’s Tour of Beijing as well as Sunday’s one-day race, the Tour of Almaty – the biggest race in its home country of Kazakhstan, won last year by Maxim Iglinskiy, and where Tour de France champion Nibali is due to ride.
RCS Sport could seek to prevent Astana from starting Il Lombardia although that may be easier said than done and could leave the organisers open to action from both the team and the UCI; as a UCI ProTeam, Astana is guaranteed a place in all UCI WorldTour events, including Il Lombardia, and since membership of the MPCC is voluntary and entirely separate to the UCI, its rules have no bearing on that.
In a press release issued yesterday, Astana’s general manager, Alexandre Vinokourov said: “In accordance with regulations of the MPCC to which the Astana team first adhered in 2013, the rider is suspended provisionally and shall remain out of competition in anticipation of the results from the B analysis.
“We will not tolerate any indulgences by any one entity, person or structure that violates these rules”, he added. “I am very disappointed and angered that this rider could not have understood the basis of our rules and the importance of our ethics.”
Today, the MPCC confirmed that Vinokourov had contacted its president, Roger Legeay, yesterday to notify him of Maxim Iglinskiy’s positive test.
In a statement, the MPCC said that Astana would only be required to suspend itself should Iglinskiy confess, as his brother did, or if his B sample were to test positive.
Noting this is the second alleged doping offence involving one of the team’s riders within 12 months, the MPCC said: “In this case, according to the MPCC regulation, a member team agrees on a voluntary basis to temporarily suspend operations for eight days from the next World Tour race.
“This approach does, however, apply only after the result of the counter-analysis, if the rider requests it. MPCC has specifically asked the Astana team to hear its rider Maxim Iglinskiy, in order to know if he makes a confession or requests counter-analysis.
“If this counter-analysis is claimed, MPCC wishes that the result will be quickly released, as it was already the case in similar circumstances last year,” it added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.