Astana team 'shocked and disappointed' after Okishev doping case

The Astana Continental team has issued an official statement following the news of Viktor Okishev's positive test for anabolic androgenic steroids, saying the Kazakhstani team is shocked and disappointed by the news. The team claimed it would continue to scrupulously follow all UCI rules and regulations, and the additional rules as per its voluntary membership in the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC).

The UCI announced Okishev's positive in a press release on Wednesday, revealing the test was carried out at the Asian Cycling Championships on 29 May, almost six months ago, when Okishev was riding for the Kazakhstani national team. The B sample has yet to be tested but Okishev has been provisionally suspended until a disciplinary hearing has been completed.

“As per regulations the rider has been suspended temporarily from the team while a full explanation of the events is sought - Viktor Okishev has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample,” the statement published on the Astana Continental website said.

“All Continental Team Astana riders and staff are shocked and disappointed by the news that comes from a UCI Press Release this Wednesday, effectively six months after the sample was taken.”

"Continental Team Astana will scrupulously follow all UCI rules and regulations, and continues to follow the additional rules as per its voluntary membership in the MPCC. Currently the team is organizing immediate inquiries into the Okishev case in order to establish an overview of the facts and explanations.”

Fourth positive for Astana

Okishev's positive test is the fourth doping case in just three months for Kazkhstani cycling, all coming from the Astana teams that include the WorldTour team of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali and the Continental development team. While managed and registered by different companies, the teams have many of the same sponsors. Dmitri Sedoun is the team manager of the Astana Continental team but is also a directeur sportif of the WorldTour team managed by Alexandre Vinokourov.

Astana’s doping problems began in September when the UCI revealed that Valentin Iglinskiy had failed a doping test for EPO taken on the opening day of the Eneco Tour. The UCI then suspended his brother and 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Maxim on October 1 after he also tested positive for EPO. He was part of Nibali's Astana squad at the Tour de France and was tested just days after reaching Paris.

On October 16 the UCI revealed that Kazakhstan national champion Ilya Davidenok had tested positive on August 27 for anabolic androgenic steroids, shortly after winning stage four of the Tour de l’Avenir. Viktor Okishev's positive also tested positive for steroids.

Under MPCC rules, two positive cases in 12 months means a team has to miss eight days of racing starting from the next WorldTour race. However Maxim Iglinsky carefully delayed asking for his B sample to be analyzed to ensure the Astana team did not miss the Tour of Lombardy and the Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan, where Nibali celebrated his Tour victory and ended his season. Instead the team missed the Tour of Beijing. The Astana Continental team is likely to face similar punishment.

The Astana WorldTour was questioned by the UCI's Licence Commission about the cases on November 6 and is likely to be reprimanded but the team is still expected to obtain a WorldTour licence for 2015. The team has claimed it has stepped up its internal testing programme and its stance against doping.

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