Nibali reacts angrily to Astana doping cases

Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali has reacted angrily to the news of a fourth doping case within the Astana teams, saying he hopes that whoever governs cycling makes them pay a high price.

“If someone links me to these cases, they don't understand a thing. They're four imbeciles that have nothing to do with me,” Gazzetta dello Sport reported Nibali as saying.

“I heard about the latest case via the internet. I'd not switched on my computer for two days and I wish I hadn't switched it back on. I can't believe the behavour of people like that. I just hope who governs cycling makes them pay a high price.”

On Wednesday, the UCI announced that Astana Continental rider Victor Okishev has been suspended after he returned an adverse analytical finding for Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. It is the fourth doping case for the Kazkhstani-backed Astana cycling programme after llya Davidenok tested positive for the same substance at the Tour de L'Avenir in August and the Iglinsky brothers, Maxim and Valentin, tested positive for EPO in the summer. They were teammates with Nibali at the Astana WorldTour team, with Maxim helping Nibali win the Tour de France.

Nibali was often questioned about doping during the Tour de France and repeated his stance that the anti-doping controls in cycling are effective.

“You're obliged to work with some people. He (Maxim Iglinsky) definitely wasn't part of my group and there's relationships between us,” Nibali pointed out.

“I hope they catch every doper. If they catch another 10, I'll be happy. It means there are controls and that they work. It's not my problem. I have to worry about what I do and my conscience is clear. I can't be responsible for what they've done. I don't even know what the two Continental riders look like.”

Astana WorldTour licence under scrutiny

The Astana cycling programme and especially the WorldTour team managed by Alexandre Vinokourov is under intense scrutiny after the doping cases, with the UCI formally requesting its Licence Commission to undertake a review of Astana's WorldTour licence.

Cyclingnews understands that the multiple doping cases in both Astana teams has been taken into account during the review of the Astana team's WorldTour licence. Roman Kreuziger's Biological Passport case also originated when he raced with Astana, while UCI President Brian Cookson has called on Vinokourov to talk to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) that is investigating doping in the sport about his own doping. Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping in 2007 and served a two-year ban.

The UCI is unlikely to refuse the Astana team a WorldTour licence for 2015 because the Kazakhstani team has always claimed the doping cases were not organised within the team. However, the UCI could force the team to strengthen its anti-doping policy. Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that the role of team doctor Joost De Maeseneer could be under review.

“I don't know what they've asked to be changed but I'm sure there won't be problems for the licence because everything will be sorted out,” directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It'd be absurd to blame the team. I can assure that the team is really angry and it can't be excluded that they take some serious decisions. Vino and his right-hand man Alexandre Shefer are in Kazakhstan at the moment to meet the sponsors and make decisions. You can't blame them for what happened. And it'd be wrong to think of a team doping programme. Taking our licence away would be wrong.”

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

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.