Astana took itself out of the Tour of Beijing on Monday, electing to “self-suspend” in light of two recent positive tests for the banned blood-booster EPO that ensnared two brothers on the team.
The decision comes in accordance with the rules of the Movement for Cycling Credible (MPCC), a group to which Astana and some other pro teams — but not all — belong. Astana riders Valentin Iglinskiy and his brother Maxim both tested positive for EPO in a 12-month period; Valentin tested positive at the Eneco Tour this season on August 11 and Maxim on August 1, after he finished the Tour de France, helping Vincenzo Nibali to a yellow jersey.
The suspension kicked in when Maxim elected to not have his B-sample tested (neither brother elected to fight his positive test). While the move benches the team immediately and for Beijing, the final WorldTour event of the season, it allows the Astana squad to race next season’s opener, the Santos Tour Down Under. According to the MPCC’s website the suspension runs from Oct. 10-17. Astana is also out of the Tour of Emilia and GP Bruno Beghelli.
It was initially thought that Astana would miss out on Lombardia and its home race, the Tour of Almaty one-day in Kazakhstan. It participated in both this past weekend, and its rider Alexey Lutsenko won the Almaty race.
“The MPCC has established, on the basis of commitment and volunteerism, a more stringent settlement than international bodies. In this context, Astana team, which have adhered to MPCC since 2013, apply the regulation, which provides self-suspension from the team for a period of eight days, from the first day of the next WorldTour race,” the MPCC statement reads. “The whole team will be off during this period. This temporary suspension of the team’s activities is to implement any corrective action they deem appropriate.”
Astana is the third team to suspend itself under MPCC rules; Ag2r-La Mondiale had to sit out the the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné and RusVelo didn’t start last year’s Giro dell’Appennino.
“The MPCC has implemented on a voluntary basis, a regulation more stringent than international bodies,” said MPCC chair Roger Legeay. Team general manager Alexandre Vinokourov said he is “disappointed and angered” about the incidents.
Maxim Iglinskiy finished 26th at Clasica San Sebastian the day after the sample was taken. The Kazakh is best known for winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2012 ahead of Nibali.
Valentin Iglinskiy admitted to using banned substances “on his own initiative and independently, without any consultation from the Astana Pro Team staff.”
“In its wish for full transparency, Astana Pro Team has refused to defend a rider who failed to respect the rules and ethics as stipulated in his contract and who has failed to behave in a manner consistent with other riders in his team and within professional cycling,” an earlier team statement said. “With the immediate expulsion of Valentin Iglinskiy, the management and staff at Astana Pro Team confirm our commitment to clean cycling without doping.”
American Astana rider Evan Huffman took to Twitter to express his disappointment. “Really disappointed to miss out on Beijing. That brings my 2014 season to an end and also my time with Astana,” he wrote, and followed with, “Already looking forward to 2015. I’ll be moving back to the U.S. and hopefully winning some races again, especially on the TT bike …”