By Shane Stokes in Crans Montana
Following the news that the UCI are monitoring several riders on suspicion of possible doping, the Astana team has officially rejected media suggestions that their riders could be involved.
The Kazakh-sponsored, Swiss registered team issued a press release on Thursday responding to unspecified media reports which had alleged that its riders could be the 'Men in Black.' The name referred to riders who have been allegedly training without team colours in order to evade detection.
The Astana communiqué stated that while its riders sometimes train without team kit, there is a valid reason for this. Furthermore, the team says that its riders have no problem with out of competition testing.
"Since the UCI announced that it is following in particular six to seven riders, likely to have recourse to illicit products, certain media busied themselves with the sowing of doubt within the teams."
"The Astana Cycling Team does not wish to enter this game and wants to clarify the following: If during the present season, it was tolerated very occasionally that certain riders train in an anonymous way, this is so that the professionals of Astana are not continuously disturbed by the many cyclotourists - in particular on the Côte d'Azur – and not in wishing to hide something."
Indeed several other big name professionals have trained in non-team kit in the past for this reason.
"The last training camp of the Astana team in the Pyrenees was conducted in the colours of the Kazakh squad. The Astana Cycling Team shows that it is perfectly favourable to the surprise controls which can be carried out by the team itself, the UCI, national Federations or WADA. The riders from Astana do not avoid this in any sense."
A team official told Cyclingnews that the team is regularly asked to do out of competition testing, and that they are prepared to do this. According to them, Andreas Klöden was once tested five times in one week. "We don't have a problem with that," they said.