The Astana Qazaqstan team team have denied any interest in signing Nairo Quintana for 2023 after the Colombian abruptly left Arkéa-Samsic as a consequence of his tramadol positives at the Tour de France.
Astana Qazaqstan has Miguel Angel López as team leader for Grand Tours but with Vincenzo Nibali retiring, the team was considered the best option for Quintana. However team manager Alexandre Vinokourov made it clear to Cyclingnews that the Kazakhstani team is not interested in signing Quintana.
"At the moment, Astana Qazaqstan Team is completing its transfer campaign and in principle, we have discussed and closed all positions in the team for the next year," Vinokourov, who will compete in the men's 45-49 category at this weekend's Gravel Worlds, told Cyclingnews.
"I saw that in some media, including Cyclingnews, that there was information about the possible interest of our team in Nairo Quintana, but this is not true."
Quintana joined Arkéa-Samsic from Movistar in 2020 and helped the Brittany-based team score enough points to secure a place in the 2023-2025 WorldTour.
The 32-year-old and Arkéa-Samsic announced a three-year contract extension just a few days before his tramadol case emerged but it appears a contract was never signed, allowing Arkéa-Samsic to confirm the divorce.
After Quintana announced he had left the Arkéa-Samsic, L'Equipe suggested that a French WorldTour team was interested in signing Quintana for 2023. However, AG2R Citroën moved quickly to deny any interest in signing the Colombian.
Cofidis have also been ruled out, while Groupama-FDJ have Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu under contract and so are very unlikely to sign Quintana.
Astana Qazaqstan have endured a difficult 2022 season, winning just four races, but the team appears set to secure a WorldTour licence for 2023-2025, despite some delays in salary payments earlier this year.
The team has 21 riders under contract for 2023, including López, Gianni Moscon, Joe Dombrowski and Alexey Lutsenko, with under-23 world champion Yevgeniy Fedorov an emerging talent having made his Grand Tour debut at this year's Vuelta a España.
Quintana was retrospectively disqualified from this summer's Tour de France after two blood droplet samples during the race tested positive for tramadol.
The painkiller is not classified as a performance-enhancing drug but was banned by the UCI in 2019. Riders returning a positive result for the substance during a race are disqualified, while a second offence carries a five-month ban. WADA has recently announced that tramadol will become a banned substance from 2024.
Quintana denies any wrongdoing and Cyclingnews understands his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland will be heard on Wednesday October 12, with a verdict expected soon after.
"As you know, I have presented my defence before CAS. We continue to work with my group of lawyers and I'm confident because I am honourable and honest," Quintana claimed in a social media post last week.
However that result and the related UCI ranking points will be lost if the CAS upholds the tramadol positive test and ban.
The 32-year-old Colombian has not raced for Arkéa-Samsic since his tramadol positive case emerged but travelled to Australia to ride the UCI Road World Championships for Colombia. He claimed that health issues prevented him racing again this season.
"I'll continue cycling and soon I'll comment about my future. I want to continue showing the rider that I am, what I'm made of, and what I can do."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.