Astana has, as expected, pulled out of the season's final UCI WorldTour race, the Tour of Beijing, which starts on Friday, after its rider Maxim Iglinskiy chose not to request that his B sample be analysed following a positive test for EPO from a sample taken on 1 August. UCI president Brian Cookson has said the team's record on doping may be scrutinised by its Licence Commission.
While Iglisnkiy stopped short of confessing to doping - unlike his brother Valentin, who was sacked by Astana last month after admitting using EPO - two positive tests inside a 12-month period mean that under the rules of the Movement for Credible Cycling, which the team belongs to, it is obliged to suspend itself from racing for eight days, beginning with the next WorldTour race.
In a statement, the team said: "Astana Pro Team has moved to act upon the decision by rider Maxim Iglinskiy not to request a counter-analysis of his positive control from 1 August 2014.
"In doing so the team conforms to rules set by the MPCC, which Astana Pro Team joined in 2013, and has therefore decided to withdraw from the final World Tour event – the Tour of Beijing."
As a UCI ProTeam, Astana is obliged to participate in all UCI WorldTour races and in theory could face a penalty for its non-participation in what will be the final edition of the Chinese race.
However, last year a precedent was set when world cycling's governing body declined to sanction AG2R La Mondiale when it became the first MPCC member to voluntarily suspend itself from racing, causing it to miss the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The French team did so after Sylvain Georges tested positive for banned substance heptaminol at the Giro d’Italia in May 2013. Another rider from the team, Steve Houanard, had been banned for two years in January 2013 for using EPO, having tested positive for it the previous September.
Astana's Fabio Aru finished ninth in Il Lombardia yesterday, which turns out to have been its final WorldTour race of the year, while its rider Alexey Lutzenko won the Tour of Almaty in his - and the team's - home country, Kazakhstan.
Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali ended his season by finishing tenth in that race, which was won last year by Maxim Iglinskiy.
Speaking at yesterday's Giro d'Italia 2015 route presentation in Milan, Cookson told the Associated Press: “I’m sure this is something the license commission will be considering when they appraise their licenses for 2015.
“I’m hopeful that these are two cases, which is two cases too many, but I’m hoping that they are isolated incidents and not symptomatic of a greater problem in the team. I hope so.
“We’ll wait and see on that one. The decision hasn’t finished yet and I don’t want to comment further. The second of the two cases is still an ongoing case so it’s not fair for me to comment until that’s completed.”
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.