In accordance with MPCC regulations, Astana suspended itself from racing and missed the Tour of Beijing last October following Maxim Iglinskiy’s positive test for EPO, the team’s second such case at WorldTour level in 2014.
The Kazakhstani organisation recorded a total of five positive tests across its WorldTour and since-disbanded Continental teams in the space of three months last year, and was also linked to the long-running Padova doping inquiry by the Italian press.
Despite serious concerns over its doping record, Astana was ultimately ratified as a WorldTour team by the UCI’s Licence Commission, although it must still undergo an audit by the University of Lausanne's Institute of Sport Sciences.
“It’s too easy that many people just point at us,” Vinokourov told De Telegraaf. “I have discussed this with Roger Legeay, the president of the MPCC. We are affiliated to the MPCC and we really do everything to prevent our riders from doping. Teams like BMC and Team Sky talk about doping but they refuse to join the MPCC. How harmful is that for the image of cycling?
“Credibility is something everyone needs to work with. We have all our doors open. Anyone who wants to know something is welcome. We are credible.”
Six of the 17 WorldTour teams – Sky, BMC, Movistar, Etixx-QuickStep, Trek Factory Racing and Tinkoff-Saxo – are not signed up to the MPCC, whose regulations include a stricter stance on the use of cortisone than currently inscribed in the UCI’s anti-doping rules.
That anomaly came to a head in 2014, notably when Sky’s Chris Froome won the Tour de Romandie in April after receiving a therapeutic use exemption to treat a chest infection with the corticosteroid prednisolone, and when Lampre’s Chris Horner withdrew on the eve of the Vuelta a España after returning low levels of cortisol in additional testing mandated by the MPCC.
Astana was previously involved in another high-profile case involving MPCC rules when it declined to treat Vincenzo Nibali with cortisone after he suffered a wasp sting above his eye at the 2013 Vuelta.
In his interview with De Telegraaf, Vinokourov reiterated his previous insistence that both Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy had acted independently of the team when they used EPO. He denied that there was a systematic doping programme in place on the squad.
“I have always maintained that this is a different matter than, for example, Rabobank or T-Mobile [for whom Vinokourov himself raced - ed.], where there was talk of organized doping from the team,” he said. “In our team, there was only the family scandal of the brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, who acted on their own."
Asked about the measures Astana has implemented in order to prevent doping on the team, Vinokourov said: “Every directeur sportif accompanies five or six riders and has contact with them every three days. The same applies to our doctors. We require that all of our riders send their training data to us daily. If someone puts out different wattages, there’s an immediate alarm bell. What more can we do? Put a guard next to each rider?”