A story from L’Equipe that’s worth translating. There’s now a power-struggle inside the Astana team to decide its future.
It begins with the inclusion of Andrei Kasheckin, the Kazakh rider had a mid-season transfer from Lampre to Astana in order to ride the Vuelta. But L’Equipe claims the move should never have happened as Astana’s roster is full with 28 riders, the maximum allowed under the rules. Adding Kasheckin would mean 29 riders, more than allowed. Yet the UCI approved Kasheckin’s transfer and racing licence a few days ago.
L’Equipe says the UCI demanded an explanation from the team (shouldn’t it have checked before?) as to why they registered a 29th rider. The team responded that Vinokourov had broken his contract with the team, meaning there was now space for Kasheckin.
This now turns out to be false, Vinokourov left hospital recently brandishing a medical note saying he’s fit for competition and yesterday declared he’s aiming to ride the Tour of Lombardy. Whether he does or doesn’t, Vino is clearly signalling “I’m fit to ride, I’m part of the team“. Indeed Vino told L’Equipe:
“I’m still a rider. I’ve a valid contact [NB until 2012]. I’m especially disappointed by what’s been happening behind the scenes at my expense”
It now means Astana have 29 riders and given he has started the Vuelta, it seems the UCI are unwilling to eject Kasheckin but want the situation resolved. For the team it seems some are trying to remove Vino from the team, a bizarre move given how closely he is associated with the squad.
That’s the story so far from L’Equipe. It’s what you might call a developing story. If true then this could blow up into something big. The governing body appears to have been tricked by false statements from the team regarding the status of its riders, in particular the claim that Vinokourov had been ejected from the team. Vino denies this and now there are moves to remove Kasheckin.
It seems odd to me that nobody in Aigle checked with the parties concerned before validating Kasheckin’s licence but it’s not the first time that UCI bungling has led to confusion over Vino’s status. Banned for one year in 2007 for blood doping, the UCI didn’t pursue a full two year ban because it heard Vino was retiring; when the Kazakh announced a comeback the UCI had to go to the CAS to get a correct ban imposed.
Whilst each side points at the other, longer term if a team is having trouble explaining the status of its riders to the UCI then it’s potentially damaging for the team. A squad shouldn’t be messing about with the rules and this could torpedo the squad’s ProTeam status, given the possibility of questionable ethical and administrative standards.
Admin aside, there’s the other question of whether some people are trying to kick Vinokourov out, and for the benefit of Kasheckin? Once a vehicle for the benefit of Vino, who is in charge at Astana?