Kazakhstan pays up for Astana

Lance Armstrong (Astana) awaits the start of stage 18 in Sulmona.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) awaits the start of stage 18 in Sulmona. (Image credit: Sirotti)

The Kazakh government said Thursday that it has paid off all the debts to the Astana team riders and have fulfilled its obligations to the UCI to fill the team's bank guarantee for the year. The Kazakhstan Minister of Tourism and Sports of Kazakhstan, Temirjan Dosmukhambetov, said some nine million dollars had been located to fund the team for 2009, "from different sources including the state budget."

News of the team's financial crisis became public before the Giro d'Italia, when the required bank guarantee to the UCI was emptied out. There was fear the team could fold before the Tour de France.

The vice president of the Kazakh cycling federation, Nikolai Proskurin said that with a new infusion of cash, all debts to the team have been paid. He also said the team has a new source of funding going forward. "We found a new sponsor for the team. This is an American company working on the Kazakh market," said Proskurin.

"We have already received bank guarantees for eight million dollars until the end of the year. I think we will overcome all difficulties in the near future," he added.

The announcement follows an ultimatum made two days ago by UCI president Pat McQuaid in which he threatened to withdraw the team's ProTour license, which is owned by the Kazakh federation, unless the issue of payments and bank guarantees were not settled.

The team has been riding in jerseys with the team's logos faded out in protest since the middle of the Giro d'Italia. They resumed in the normal jerseys earlier this week when the funding came through.

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