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The Kazahstani twins - Andrey Kashechkin and Alexandre Vinokourov on the podium.
Signs ethical code, will start Tour Down Under
The Astana team has reinstated Kazakhstan's Andrey Kashechkin after he signed the team's internal code of conduct. He will now be free to start in the Santos Tour Down Under on January 21.
The team announced the provisional suspension of Kashechkin on December 28 after he refused to sign the document, although no specifics were given regarding which provisions he objected to.
Astana is in the process of trying to improve its image, although its current incarnation escaped 2012 relatively unscathed in the doping-scandal filled year. Its only incidents this season were the suspension of Albert Contador which dated back to his 2010 Tour de France with the squad, and the arrest of French rider Remi di Gregorio in an investigation into illegal practices during his time with Astana in 2011.
The team has struggled to shed the weight of its past doping connections: in 2007, Kashechkin and now-team manager Alexandre Vinokourov both were found positive for blood transfusions, while Matthias Kessler tested positive for testosterone.
The team purportedly brought in Johan Bruyneel to clean up its image in 2008, but he is now the subject of a possible lifetime ban for organizing doping at the US Postal Service Team. That year the team sacked Vladimir Gusev for irregular blood values but avoided any doping positives.
In 2009, Bruyneel was joined in the team by Lance Armstrong, whose return from retirement brought both increased media attention and scrutiny to the squad. The French agency OCLAESP launched an investigation into syringes found in the team's waste at the Tour de France.
The investigation was eventually dropped, and Bruyneel left with Armstrong to form the RadioShack team in 2010, leaving Contador as the Astana team's sole leader for the Tour. Bad news for the team struck again when Contador was found positive for clenbuterol in a control taken on the race's second rest day.
In 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency's investigation into Bruyneel and Armstrong revealed in shocking detail how riders skirted doping controls and continued to cheat while not testing positive, including rider testimony from the Astana team of 2009 which implicated Bruyneel and then-team doctor Pedro Celaya.
USADA's report and the Padova investigation into Dr. Michele Ferrari also cast suspicion upon riders from Astana, including Vinokourov, but the team seems to be determined to put doping behind it.
In addition to implementing a code of conduct, the Astana team has petitioned to join the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), stating that past practices in cycling "have put the reputation, image and viability of the sport at serious risk. Neither the doping practices nor the environment that served to enable them can ever be allowed to happen again.”