Astana on the brink?

Astana General Manager Marc Biver

Astana General Manager Marc Biver (Image credit: Shane Stokes)

Biver summoned by ProTour President

The UCI said in a statement today that it has summoned Astana team manager Marc Biver to explain the three A samples of three Astana riders that tested positive recently.

Astana may be facing a suspension. Last September, the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) met to discuss amendments to the Code of Ethics applied to the ProTour. The UCI ProTeams committed to suspending the whole of their activities in the case of two positive anti-doping results and/or abnormal blood controls over a period of 12 months.

The offending team was to be suspended as a whole for eight days upon knowledge of a second positive doping test, with the suspension beginning during the first day of the next ProTour race. In the event of three positive tests or abnormal blood controls (over a period of 24 months), the suspension period increased to four weeks (including Grand Tours), and a fourth positive test was to be cause for withdrawal of the ProTour license of the implicated team, pending approval by the UCI. Cyclingnews does not know if the ProTour Council adopted the resolution, and a representative of the UCI could not be reached for comment.

Astana fired Matthias Kessler, the team's first doping positive, following a positive result for testosterone before the Fleche Wallonne.

Eddy Mazzoleni, who finished third in the Giro d'Italia, was investigated by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for his involvement in 2004's Oil for Drugs case. Increasing pressure caused him to annul his contract after the team had already suspended him. He was also scrutinized for 'abnormally low' hormone levels in blood and urine tests after the Giro d'Italia stage to Monte Zoncolan on May 30.

Star racer Alexander Vinokourov also tested positive during Stage 16 of the Tour de France for homologus blood doping. The day after, the entire team withdrew from the Tour. Homologus doping involves the transfer of blood from another person. Vinokourov was later fired from Astana following the positive B sample test.

Andrej Kashechkin also tested positive for a homologus blood transfusion following an unexpected control on August 1 in Belek, Turkey. The rider was suspended effective immediately while waiting for the analysis of the B sample.

Thus far, only four total pro cyclists, two pairs of team-mates have tested positive for homologous blood doping. The other pair of team-mates was Santiago Perez and Tyler Hamilton of the Phonak team, which eventually folded after Floyd Landis also tested positive for testosterone. The two Phonak blood doping positives happened in 2004.

Astana's summons comes one day after T-Mobile and Milram, two teams taking strong anti-doping stances, announced they would continue sponsorship and the same day that Discovery Channel announced its team is disbanding at the end of 2007. Discovery Channel suffered the departure of Ivan Basso, who admitted attempted doping, and Tour winner Alberto Contador is now under investigation by WADA.

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