The Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) association has announced it has excluded the Astana team after it broke the association’s rules and allowed Lars Boom to start the Tour de France despite tests revealing he had a low cortisol level.
The Astana team was already at the centre of a series of scandals after a number of riders failed anti-doping tests in 2014 and attempts this year by the UCI to revoke their WorldTour licence.
The MPCC made the decision at a board of directors meeting, claiming Astana did not respect its voluntary rules of conduct. The Astana team was temporarily suspended from the MPCC at the end of July but is now out of the voluntary association that say it “aims to promote the idea of a clean cycling, notably based on the concepts of transparency, accountability and mobilization of its members.”
The abnormally low cortisol levels in Boom’s test do not violate UCI or WADA rules, however, the MPCC’s article 9 requires that a rider sits out from racing for a minimum of eight days as a health precaution. Low cortisol levels can point to the use of cortisone or be due to other health problems and have been a serious problem in the past.
In recent months several teams have quit the MPCC over the enforcement of the cortisol and other rules, damaging the MPCC's credibility. The Bardiani-CSF team also ignored the cortisol rule before the Giro d'Italia and left the MPCC, while the LottoNL-Jumbo team respected the rule and stopped George Bennett from racing. It claimed that tests showed that Bennett was kept out of the Giro d'Italia unjustly and the MPCC's refusal to change the cortisol rules 'forced' the Dutch WorldTour team to leave.
Boom was tested on the morning of July 2, two days ahead of the Grand Depart, as part of the normal pre-race tests carried by the UCI. However, the test results came back after the manager’s meeting on Friday July 3, and according to the UCI’s rules, Astana were not permitted to swap out Boom for their reserve rider Alessandro Vanotti after the usual entry deadline. Instead of starting the Tour de France with only eight riders, Astana’s manager Alexander Vinokourov decided to go against the MPCC’s rules and start Boom, completing their nine-man team in support of Vincenzo Nibali.
Despite signing up to the MPCC, Vinokourov claimed that the Astana medical team believe a low cortisol level was not a danger to Boom’s health. Boom struggled through the opening stages of the Tour de France and quit the race before stage 10.
Astana directeur sportif Dmitriy Fofonov defended Astana’s actions in a MPCC hearing but the team was excluded after a vote by the MPCC Board of directors.
In further criticism of the Astana team, the MPCC board said it approves “the firm attitude of the UCI which has been strict in the application of its rules by excluding Vincenzo Nibali and his sporting director from the Vuelta”, suggesting that video footage should be used to discipline riders.
The MPCC also supported Androni-Sidermec manager Gianni Savio after he respected the MPCC rules and voluntarily suspended his team in August after two cases of doping in his team. The MPCC also said it supports the team’s move to sue the riders who have been found positive for doping.
The MPCC said its general meeting will be held on October 19 with the presence of its 106 current members.