I won't deny we through about dropping Astana team: Kazakhstan Cycling Federation President20 march 2015, 14:27
“I am not going to deny it, there was a moment when we thought that it would probably be better to drop the team. We have suspended the second team – Astana Continental. But after thinking for a while, we decided that Astana Pro Team was a successful project. We decided to change the anti-doping policy in the team and asked ICU for help. It prescribed some recommendations for us that we are now fulfilling," Darkhan Kaletayev said at the press conference following the presentation of a new lineup of Astana Pro Team in Dubai, the UAE in early February.
Kazakhstan's Cycling Federation introduced a set of measures to toughen the control over the team. The first one, was the biometric passport requirement - every rider had to obtain one. Among other measures are also seminars and trainings for coaches who work with young riders.
In addition, a lot of work related to the team will be done jointly with the University of Lausanne. There is a lot of progress, and we have a big plans, he said.
Astana team plans to start this season afresh leaving all doping scandals behind. “The main message we want to convey to the world today is that Astana in the 2015 Season is a new team, 'clean' team, the team without scandals and doping, and the team that can win and is ready to win. Once again, I would like to assure the sports community that the team will win without doping. We will not allow any such cases to happen again. We are ready to develop a clean sport and strive for new achievements,” Darkhan Kaletayev said.
A series of doping scandals hit the team last year. In September 2014, a rider of Astana Pro Team Valentin Iglinsky tested positively for erythropoietin (EPO). The Kazakh athlete admitted using the forbidden substances "independently from his team and without consulting Astana ProTeam staff". Following the announcement, the team terminated the contract with the cyclist.
Less than a month after Valentin Iglinsky's case, his brother Maxim Iglinsky, who was also riding for Astana Pro Team and who was part of Team Astana’s Tour de France squad that year, was notified by the world's governing body for cycling - the International Cyclist Union (UCI) - about the presence of EPO in his sample collected during Clasica San Sebastian on August 1, 2014, which was 10 days after Maxim’s tests, on August 11 at the Eneco Tour.
Since Astana is one of the 11 first division teams that follow stricter rules of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), it had to stop racing. For Astana Pro Team having two cyclers with positive doping tests in one year meant an 8 day suspension and saw them miss several races, including the Tour of Beijing.
But that was not the end to doping scandals for Astana Pro Team. Later, three Kazakh cyclists of Astana's second-tier Continental Team, which feeds into the main group, Ilya Davidenok, Viktor Okishev and Artur Fedosseyev tested positively for anabolic steroids.
Ilya Davidenok's case triggered an investigation into the management and anti-doping policies of the Astana team by the UCI's license commission to determine whether or not to grant Astana a WorldTour license for 2015.
Later, the UCI awarded the team a provisional license for the 2015 World Tour on condition that an independent body, the University of Lausanne’s Institute for Sport Sciences, will audit the team’s managerial practices to determine the extent of the team's management responsibility for the doping failures and the measures the team put in place to prevent any future instances of doping. The Institute reported its findings in February, before the major international races began.
The President of UCI Brian Cookson then said that the licence given to Astana had to be considered a probation.
“We shall be following the situation very closely and are awaiting to review the results of the audit. Meanwhile, the team will have to comply with the requirements imposed by the licence commission. The combined effect of this is that the Astana Pro Team can be considered very much on probation,” Cookson said.
When presenting a new line-up of Astana Team in Dubai, Darkhan Kaletayev said that obtaining the license for the Olympics in Rio was the first priority for the team. “Cycling is not a new sport for me. I spent several years as a Vice President in the Federation (of cycling). The main strategy now is to prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The task of Astana team is to obtain a Olympic licenses for Kazakh athletes. We lay avery large hopes on Astana cycling team. We have big plans in the track. You know, we have a team Astana Track. They have the same goal - to win licenses for Rio. In addition, there is the women's team. Zulfiya Zabirova (1996 Olympic Champion, a Kazakh cyclist) has also been appointed a Vice-President (of the Kazakh Cycling Federation). She will be focusing on development of the women's cycling. This is all about professional cycling. As for the mass sports, there are many amateur tours in Kazakhstan. There is the professional Tour of Almaty race that we want to continue and perhaps make it a a two or three day race. We have plans to arrange the Tour of Astana. Tour of Borovoe has already become a tradition. We will continue holding both amateur and professional races in Kazakhstan,” he said adding that the team's budget had been cut by 30 percent because of the global economic crisis.
By Assel Satubaldina, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina