Alexandre Vinokourov, with a fresh WorldTour licence for his Astana Pro Team in hand, is busy planning the 2015 season and contends that he is not worried about the UCI's planned independent audit of the team and their activities. In an interview with Sport-Zakon, the Kazakhstani team manager says that everything written about him and the team's links to banned physiologist Michele Ferrari is untrue.
"No one is hiding anything. I said back in 2007 that I worked with him, but not later," Vinokourov said. "Everything was all rolled into one big lie. There are clearly people who do not want Astana to have a licence, but we are grateful to the commission for reviewing our case."
Astana was called before the UCI's Licence Commission after the EPO positives of the brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, and Vinokourov said that he explained to the Commission that there was no systematic doping in the team. "It was a one-time family occurrence with the Iglinskiy brothers," he said.
The team made their case to the UCI in November, where Vinokourov said they already discussed agreeing to an audit.
"When we met with the commission on November 6 the audit was the first point of discussion," Vinokourov said. "The audit is both of our management structure and our athletic side - that's what they will be checking - probably they will question the athletes, the directors, the doctors - and ask how our team is run from within - whether we have a sufficient number of doctors on the team, enough directors - it could come down to that they want us to have one trainer for every five or six riders."
The team was granted a licence, albeit under strict conditions that they must not have another doping positive, and must now adhere to the regulations which have been proposed for the 2017 WorldTour, ones that limit the number of race days per rider, and the level of staffing needed per rider.
"We are open to the UCI, we have nothing to hide," Vinokourov said of the upcoming audit. "We are transparent."
The auditors from the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne will begin assessing the team in January, and Vinokourov welcomed their input. "The Lausanne University audit I think will be extremely useful for us, and it will begin from the first of the year," he said. "I think they will join us in Calpe at our next training camp from the 12th to the 24th. We will discuss with them, work with them, and if they suggest something new then it will be something we can introduce right then and there into the team."
Although UCI President Brian Cookson made it clear that the Astana team's spot in the WorldTour was still very much under probation, Vinokourov said that none of his riders have any plans to leave the team. "Nobody is going anywhere," he said. "Not even Nibali, as was written. We are in talks with Fabio Aru to extend his contract for another three years."
Vinokourov said the team was not immediately planning to sue the Italian media over its recent reports. "That has never been our goal - of course it's unpleasant, but we can talk to our lawyers to see what our options are. It used to be we fought back by racing hard on the road, so yesterday I talked with the team by Skype - everyone was really happy, and the last three days have been a deep team building experience - this whole experience has deepened our resolve.
"I told the trainers, Fofonov, Shefer, the riders, that they have to use this helpless anger to prove that the team has won before and will win again without doping - this whole thing has left a deep impression on the team and will motivate us all season, and that is going to help us a lot."
Astana assisted with translation for this article.