The Astana team has acknowledged there could be a problem with its membership in the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC) after announcing the signing of Franco Pellizotti for 2014.
The Italian rider was banned for two years for a UCI Biological Passport violation and made his comeback with the Androni Giocattoli team in May 2012. Astana announced it had signed the Italian for 2014 on the first day of the official transfer window.
However Astana is a member of the MPCC and its internal rules clearly say that MPCC member teams undertake not to sign riders who have been involved in doping and were punished for more than six months.
The MPCC is a voluntary organisation that has pushed for stricter anti-doping rules in light of the long series of doping scandals in professional cycling. Its members agree to abide by ethical criteria that go beyond the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
More than 35 teams are member of the MPCC, including a majority of the WorldTour teams plus many race organisers and sponsors. However several of the sports biggest teams, including Team Sky, Cannondale and BMC, have so far opted not to join. Astana joined in 2013.
When contacted by Cyclingnews, Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli admitted there was a problem concerning the MPCC rules and Pellizotti joining the team but said the team is trying to find a solution.
"We recognise it's a legitimate issue," Martinelli said.
"I'll take this up with team manager Alexandre Vinokourov and come up with a solution to this real issue in the next few days."
According to the MPCC rules, Pellizotti can only legally be a part of the Astana team as of May 2, 2014 (two years after his ban) and not January 2014.
However Cyclingnews understands that Pellizotti has already signed his contract with Astana, leaving the Kazakhstani team with the embarrassing situation of either opting not to stay as a member of the MPCC in 2014 or somehow canceling or changing the signed contract with Pellizotti.