The ongoing tussle between Tour de France organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and the UCI over the ProTour might end up affecting the Astana team. With the UCI demanding that the Tour de France allow all the ProTour teams to start, and the ASO historically fighting to limit the number of teams it is required to invite to 18, the Astana team might find itself on the chopping block after suffering three doping positives in 2007.
Although no official comment has been made on that matter yet, it's rumoured that ASO isn't interested in organizing the Tour de France with teams like Astana, who have had doping positives of Matthias Kessler (testosterone), Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreï Kashechkin (blood doping), and reportedly maintain ties to Dr. Michele Ferrari.
"I won't make any name but we'll watch closely the projects of the teams before they'll get the ProTour status," UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf told Cyclingnews in Stuttgart. "We will also take into consideration who is behind the scenes." Discovery Channel's Johann Bruyneel is rumoured to be one of the men 'behind the scenes', and has his own conflicts with the ProTour after he signed the now disgraced Italian Ivan Basso in a move contrary to the ProTour code of Ethics.
Rumpf confirmed Astana's future is in question. "Astana is under high surveillance," he said. "We got Marc Biver to give us explanations and plans about what he'll do against drugs in the future. But we heard that Biver might no longer be in the picture, so we wrote a letter to the license holder, which is the Kazakh cycling federation. We are still waiting for their precise answer. For now, they only say that we don't have to worry about the team being clean." JFQ