Astana could face further disciplinary action after voluntarily suspending themselves from the Tour of Beijing.
The Kazakh outfit have carried out this action in coherence with being voluntary members of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC).
This requires teams to withdraw from competition for eight days at the start of the next World Tour race if a rider fails a drugs test.
This occurred in Astana’s case after Maxim Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO, however Astana delayed their decision whether to appeal or not so that their participation in Il Lombardia or The Tour of Almaty wasn't affected.
The UCI have the option to fine Astana up to CHF 100,000 (£65,000) for failing to compete in a UCI world tour event despite the good intention of the ban is meant to imply.
However, the doping within Astana has not only further damaged their reputation in a season which has been very successful on the road, but in a team with a doping history that is very poor to say the least.
This could also affect their application for a UCI World Tour licence, as the team are not fully approved until the end of the month. A teams licence guarantees entry into the seasons biggest races and can be rejected based on ethical reasons, this is what happened to Katusha in 2013 before being accepted after appeal.
However, it seems that the failed test from Maxim Iglinsky and his brother Valentin (who was promptly sacked by the team in September) are an isolated case within the team. Astana rider Lieuwe Westra stated "doping was not organised by Astana, but by those guys themselves" and he regrets that the team now being shown in a bad light.
This seems genuine for a rider who thought his season was over before being asked to train once again to prepare for races that he would have taken part in this weekend if it wasn't for this subsequent ban.
One of the main reasons for cycling fans suspicions is that this team is led by Alexandre Vinokourov, a convicted doper during his career which took place in the Lance Armstrong era.
The UCI also carry these suspicions about Vinokourov’s leadership within the team, claiming the current doping case against Astana ’as an extremely serious situation and one which raises questions about the management of the team and the ethics which are upheld within it’.
Whether this storm that is currently looming over Astana clears could define what team Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali is riding for next season. It seems likely that the UCI won’t punish Astana as harshly to rejecting their World Tour licence, but it’s a very loud wake up call that cycling teams must take responsibility for their riders actions.
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