Team Astana has suspended itself for the month of August in order "to think about the future," on the same day bike sponsor BMC announced its withdrawal with immediate effect. In a terse statement released Tuesday evening, the team said: "Following the last events, Astana Cycling Team decided to suspend its activities during the month of August. This time will allow the whole team - management, staff and riders - to think about its future."
The squad's self-sidelining follows Alexander Vinokourov's non-negative A and B samples from the Tour de France's Stage 13. In addition to being asked to leave the Tour, the Switzerland-registered squad was told it wasn't welcome at the Deutschland Tour, a ProTour event. The Kazakh-backed squad has since relieved Vinokourov of his duties, while the rider intends on fighting the allegations of blood doping having hired the same legal team that has represented last year's Tour winner Floyd Landis..
"The Astana Cycling Team's management will organise new regulations, as well on the level of the team's structure as of the ethical rules," it added. "The first concrete measures will be communicated later on."
In addition, Astana's bike supplier BMC announced Tuesday night that it has cancelled its agreement with the team, effective immediately. "The reason for this is the latest case of doping that occurred in the Astana team during the Tour de France that has just ended," the Swiss company said. "Whether BMC will engage again in the future as a sponsor of a professional cycling team is still an open question."
No date was set for further announcements.
Vinokourov's positive is the latest doping case to rock the team, with Eddy Mazzoleni quitting the team after becoming involved in the Italian National Olympic Committee's investigation of Dr. Carlo Santuccione and the Oil for Drugs case. Now former Astana rider Matthias Kessler also tested positive for testosterone in the spring. SW