The UCI has confirmed that Astana Continental rider Victor Okishev has been suspended after he returned an adverse analytical finding for Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. The positive test comes from the Asian Championships in May of this season, where Okishev won the under-23 time trial. The 20-year-old has been part of the team since August of 2013.
It is the second positive test for the Astana Continental team in recent months and the fourth for the Kazkhstani-backed Astana cycling programme. Teammate llya Davidenok tested positive for the same substance at the Tour de L'Avenir in August, although he had joined the WorldTour Astana team as a stagiaire at the beginning of the month.
The Astana WorldTour team also had two positives in recent months with the Iglinskiy brothers Maxim and Valentin both testing positive for EPO.
"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that it has notified UCI Continental Team Astana Kazakh rider Victor Okishev of an Adverse Analytical Finding of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids in a sample collected at the Asian Cycling Championships on 29 May 2014," the UCI statement read.
"The rider has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample. In accordance with UCI Anti-doping Rules, the rider has been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the affair."
Astana WorldTour licence review
The run of positive tests led the UCI to request its Licence Commission undertake a review of Astana's WorldTour licence. Cyclingnews understands that the doping cases in both Astana teams has been taken into account during the review of the Astana team's WorldTour licence.
The hearing took place on November 6 and an announcement will come ahead of the official announcement of the 2015 WorldTour teams. While the Astana team could be refused a WorldTour licence on ethical grounds, it more likely to be reprimanded and ordered to improve its anti-doping activities within the team.
While the Astana WorldTour team of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali and the Astana Continental are managed by separate companies, the teams are both part of Kazhstan's strategy to use sport to promote the Asian country. Most sponsors of the WorldTour team also support the Continental team. Dmitri Sedoun is the team manager of the Astana Continental team but is also listed as a directeur sportif of the WorldTour team managed by Alexandre Vinokourov.
Both Astana teams are members of the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible (MPCC), which enforces stricter anti-doping rules than the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the UCI.
In accordance with the MPCC rules, the Astana WorldTour suspended itself for the Tour of Beijing race last month because of the Iglinsky EPO cases in the team.