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MILAN (VN) — After winning the Tour de France with Vincenzo Nibali, Astana is ending the season on a sour note thanks to the Maxim Iglinskiy doping case.
The Kazakh team is likely to hit the brakes early instead of finishing the WorldTour, which concludes October 10-14 with the Tour of Beijing. Its last major appointment could be Sunday at Il Lombardia, the monument that closes out the big one-day race season.
Fabio Aru, the rising Italian star and winner of two stages in the Vuelta a España, will lead Astana at Il Lombardia.
If Iglinskiy’s positive test for EPO is confirmed, the team will have no option but to stop. Astana is part of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), which requires any member team to stop for eight days from the next WorldTour race if it has two doping cases in a 12-month period.
The MPCC has 11 members. Only seven WorldTour teams — BMC Racing Team, Cannondale, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek Factory Racing — are not members.
The 33-year-old Kazakh tested positive the day before the Clásica San Sebastián, August 1. The UCI announced the news October 1, less than a month after it disclosed that Iglinskiy’s younger brother Valentin had also tested positive for the same banned drug.
Valentin Iglinskiy admitted taking EPO, was fired, and received a four-year suspension from his home federation. His brother has eight days to request a B-sample analysis, which appears to be buying the team time to race Lombardia.
According to a report in Saturday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, early next week Maxim Iglinskiy will admit to using EPO and say that the team did not know anything about his actions. The delay would permit Astana to race with Aru at Lombardia and with Nibali at Kazakhstan’s biggest race, the Tour of Almaty, also Sunday.
Astana would then have to sit out for eight days from the start of the Tour of Beijing, which would also exclude the team from the Italian races Giro dell’Emilia and the GP Beghelli. However, it would be able to start in China’s Tour of Hainan, October 20-28.
It is a bad ending to the 2014 season, but Astana has minimized the damage. The team was able to quickly dispense with the younger Iglinskiy, but any sanction leveled against his brother will cast a broader shadow. Maxim Iglinskiy helped Nibali win the Tour and brought Astana big wins like the 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the 2010 Strade Bianche, and stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Romandie.
Team general manager Alexandre Vinokourov said he was “disappointed and angered” about the incidents, a career choice with which he is all too familiar.
Vinokourov persuaded Astana — a group of businesses that took the name of the capital — to sponsor his team after Liberty Seguros left due to the Operación Puerto doping scandal in 2006.
One year later, racing in Astana’s blue colors, Vinokourov left the 2007 Tour in disgrace when tests showed he blood doped. He would later mount a comeback, returning to win the London Olympics and manage the team.