The presence of Denis Menchov within Katusha’s roster is reportedly the prime reason that the Russian team has been refused a UCI WorldTour licence for the 2013 season, which starts three weeks on Saturday with the Santos Tour Down Under.
According to a story published by French sports daily L’Equipe on Christmas Eve, which cites as its source “a recent indiscretion by a member of the UCI’s licence commission,” the accusations against the 34-year-old come from two sources.
One is the ongoing investigation into doping, tax evasion and money laundering being led by prosecutors based in the Italian city of Padua, centred around the banned doctor, Michele Ferrari, the findings of which are set to be made public in the new year. Menchov is said to be strongly implicated in the inquiry.
The other is the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s dossier on the Lance Armstrong case and specifically the testimony of Levi Leipheimer, who according to L’Equipe named Menchov in his affidavit as a client of Ferrari’s.
Menchov’s name does not appear in the published version of the affidavit, although several names of riders and other personnel linked to teams Leipheimer rode for have been redacted. If L'Equpe is correct, Menchov's is one of the names excised from the document that has been made public.
While both Leipheimer and Menchov had long spells at Rabobank, their time there did not overlap – the American rode for the team from 2002-04 before joining Gerolsteiner, while the Russian started riding for the Dutch team in 2005 and left at the end of the 2010 season.
His next destination was the Geox-TMC team, where he rode during 2011, and it is highly possible he would never have joined Katusha at all had that outfit not folded at the end of the 2011 season following withdrawal of its sponsorship.
Menchov won the Giro d’Italia in 2009 and the Vuelta in 2007. He was also awarded the overall title in the 2005 edition of the Spanish Grand Tour after the race’s winner, Roberto Heras, was found to have failed a doping control.
However, last week the Spanish supreme court upheld an earlier civil court decision which found that there had been errors in the storage and testing of the samples taken from Heras, meaning that the Spaniard is likely to be reinstated as winner of the 2005 edition of the race.
Katusha itself has appealed the UCI licence commission’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but as things stand it does not even have a second-tier UCI Professional Continental licence for the 2013 season yet.
Moreover, its feeder team, RusVelo, which raced under a second division licence during 2012, has also been refused renewal of its licence and has been invited instead to apply for a third-tier UCI Continental licence.
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.