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ALTO CAMPOO, Spain (VN) — Astana defended its lead in the Vuelta a España on Saturday but could not keep its place in the MPCC (Movement for a Credible Cycling), a voluntary anti-doping association composed of several top cycling teams.
The MPCC booted the team Friday over Lars Boom’s cortisol case at the Tour de France two months ago. Ahead of the race, the Dutchman showed low cortisol levels in a test but was allowed to race by his team regardless, against MPCC regulations.
The organization’s rules stipulated that Astana withhold Boom from competition for eight days, denying him the start at the Tour. Instead, the team gave the movement reason to rule as it did yesterday.
The MPCC heard Astana’s case in a meeting, but ultimately kicked the team out of the group for non-compliance.
“Although cortisol hormones are an allowed medicine when prescribed by a physician, the use of that medicine has frequently been abused in the history of sports (including in cycling) for the purpose of increasing the performance. Besides, a low level of cortisol can potentially endanger the health of athletes in certain circumstances when he/she is in competition while the athletes perform under high intensity or under stress,” read an MPCC statement.
“For both reasons and with the objective to contribute to restoring the credibility of cycling, MPCC and its member teams have introduced that voluntary norm below which its riders will temporarily withdraw from competition.”
The MPCC now only counts eight WorldTour teams in its ranks: Ag2r-La Mondiale, Cannondale-Garmin, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM Cycling, Katusha, Lotto-Soudal and Orica-GreenEdge. Several more teams signed up to its stricter anti-doping rules in the wake of the Lance Armstrong 2012 scandal, but over the last year, many have left.
The same low-cortisol level rule stopped American Chris Horner from being able to defend his title in the Vuelta a España last year. Dutchman Theo Bos had a similar problem.
Horner’s former Lampre team, after another run-in with the MPCC, left the group. Bos’ LottoNL-Jumbo team did too. Out of the field of WorldTour teams, BMC Racing, Etixx-Quick-Step, Lampre-Merida, LottoNL-Jumbo, Movistar, Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo, and Trek Factory Racing are not members. That list now includes Astana.
It may be something small, but losing its place in an anti-doping group only complicates a difficult year for the team in bright blue. In the wake of Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France win in 2014, Astana suffered multiple doping cases and nearly lost its racing license. Fabio Aru celebrated his fourth day in the Vuelta’s red leader’s jersey Saturday with one week left in the race, but the MPCC’s decision dampened the party.