By Shane Stokes
Astana general manager Marc Biver will meet with the UCI ProTour Council [CUPT] president Vittorio Adorni on August 23rd in relation to the doping crisis facing the team. Three of its riders have provided positive or non-negative tests in recent months; Matthias Kessler and Alexandre Vinokourov have had A and B samples confirming excess testosterone and homologous blood doping respectively, while last Wednesday Andrei Kashechkin was told that an A sample had shown evidence of the same blood manipulation.
While the UCI ProTour Council is not part of the IPCT agreement reached last year in regards to sanctions for teams in the case of positive tests [under which Astana would be suspended for a month and lose out on a place in a Grand Tour], President Pat McQuaid has told Cyclingnews that the team could be facing the withdrawal of its ProTour license.
"Marc Biver is due to meet with the president of the ProTour Council, Vittorio Adorni, in the next ten days or so," McQuaid told Cyclingnews over the weekend. That date was confirmed to Cyclingnews today [Tuesday] by UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf as August 23rd.
"We are going through a process," continued McQuaid. "The first process is for the president of the CUPT to meet with Astana. He [Vittorio Adorni] will report to the CUPT meeting in September and then that meeting will decide what to do. If they ultimately send a request to the licensing commission to withdraw the license, then the licensing commission will consider the situation. It's a possibility that the license could be withdrawn."
In the past few weeks Astana has seen two of its three big riders end up in hot water due to charges of illegal blood transfusions. The team voluntarily suspended its activities for a month after Vinokourov's test, then came the news that Kashechkin had also been caught under the same examination.
On the same day that announcement was made, the team revealed that it would hold a training camp in Switzerland from August 11th – 24th. However, that camp was brought to a premature end yesterday when Vuelta organisers Unipublic said that the team was no longer welcome in the Spanish Tour. Now the Kazakh-backed squad faces a nervous time ahead as it waits to see if it will lose its place in the ProTour.