The Astana Cycling Team announced Friday that it has terminated its contract with Russian Vladimir Gusev as a result of "irregular values" detected by its internal anti-doping program run by Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard. The team's general manager Johan Bruyneel confirmed the news in a statement, although stopped short of saying that Gusev had doped.
"Though his results do not indicate the use of forbidden substances, Vladimir's values exceeded the normal parameters established by Dr. Damsgaard and were not compliant with the strict agreement signed by all thirty riders," Bruyneel said.
"Vladimir Gusev has been officially notified that he no longer represents Team Astana," Bruyneel said. "Our Kazakh sponsors have also been made aware of this decision and are fully supportive."
Gusev, 26, the now former team-mate of 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, came over to the Discovery Channel team from Team CSC in 2006. He followed Bruyneel from that team to Astana this year. A four-time Russian time trial champion, Gusev was considered to be a Classics specialist, finishing fifth in the 2007 Tour of Flanders. But he stunned the cycling world by taking a mountain stage win and the climber's jersey at the Tour de Suisse that year.
Gusev also wore the jersey of best young rider in the 2007 Tour after the prologue, and later won the Tour of Belgium.
"It's impossible for any team manager to know the activities of riders behind closed doors," Bruyneel said, "but we continue to enforce that Team Astana has a 100% no tolerance policy and any violators will serve the same fate as Vladimir. On a brighter note, this proves that Dr. Damsgaard's system works and we are committed to racing clean."
The Astana team adopted the anti-doping system of Damsgaard under Bruyneel as part of its effort to shake off the doping positives of Alexander Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin and Matthias Kessler, as well as the involvement of Eddy Mazzoleni in the 'Oil for Drugs' affair in Italy. The program is similar to that used by the CSC-Saxo Bank team.
"Certainly these situations are unfortunate," said Damsgaard, "but I truly believe that we are continuing to see a cleaner sport with a large majority of credible riders. Teams like Astana and CSC-Saxo Bank have shown their full commitment to my program and I, in return, have committed all my resources to their firm anti-doping stance."
Gusev is the third rider to be fired from a ProTour team for irregular blood values in the past two years. Igor Astarloa was sacked from Team Milram earlier this year, and Serhiy Honchar was let go from the T-Mobile team last year.