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Astana team

Astana have got their World Tour licence for 2015 following a late review from the UCI. A shock? Not really because the rules don’t give the Licence Commission much room to exclude a team. It takes a smoking gun, or in the case of Team Europcar, denied a World Tour place, cold arithmetic.

It’s worth remembering a licence is primarily an administrative exercise. The team can exist on paper but it’s going to face headwinds in the coming weeks and months. In fact you wonder whether the sponsors will want to continue?

Reminder: In order to get a licence a team must meet four criteria: sporting, financial, administrative and ethical. Astana has had no problem on the sporting scale given it has several top riders and the financial and administrative issues are not the problem for a team famous for deep pockets. Instead it’s been a question of ethics. Obviously.

But what have Astana done wrong to be denied a licence? There’s a James Bond film where 007 receives a bullet with his name on it and wonders aloud who might want him dead. “Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!” replies his boss. Astana might appear to have an endless list of suspicion too. But we can discount some of them, at least under the rules.

Under the rules the Continental team is separate so all their troubles aren’t taken into account, those positive tests of riders you’ve never heard of aren’t taken into account. That’s what the rules say, we might make associations but the teams are deemed to be different. But what of all the stories from Italy and in La Gazzetta about Michele? Earlier today L’Equipe reported that the UCI wrote to its licence commission to say that it has yet to get a copy of the file from Italy and so the Licence Commission must award Astana’s licence regardless of the current headlines. What of Alexandr Vinokourov’s reputation? Well it’s surely the same as it was this time last year when Astana got a licence too.

Which leaves the Iglinskiy brothers and their two EPO tests as the only novelty for the licence application although we can include Ilya Davidenok as a team stagiaire too. It’s bad but other teams have had two or three positives in a year and kept their licence, for example say ciao! to Fluo Yellow who get their Pro Conti licence today. So everything else, the Conti team triple positives, Vinokourov’s reputation, La Gazzetta’s recent revelations, didn’t count.

This might annoy some but it’s actually the right thing to do… under the existing rules. Licences can’t be awarded on the basis of newspaper headlines, if there’s evidence it needs to be studied carefully rather than gleaned from a sports paper. We might be shocked by the revelations but calls for “something must be done” don’t equate to “do anything“.

Crucially any licence granted today can also be suspended under the rules or withdrawn. Here’s the rule:

Some might prefer the precautionary principle to apply here and for Astana not to have a licence pending the resolution of any ongoing investigations… but that’s not in the rules. So if you don’t want Astana you really want the rules to be rewritten first. Similarly you might be disappointed in Brian Cookson but he’s following the rules, something his predecessor Pat McQuaid didn’t always do. Above all the shadow of the Katusha licence debacle hangs over this. The team was ejected from the World Tour but won back its licence by appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with the court ruling decisively for the team.

What did the UCI do about Vino?
The UCI and others do have a duty to investigate in the name of anti-doping. Given Vinokourov was mentioned aloud in the USADA report – excerpt pictured above – what did the governing body do about this? If it simply sat back then questions need to be asked. But if it invited Vinokourov for questions in late 2012 or early 2013 and he’s on the record denying links to Dr Ferrari then he’s got some explaining to do and could still be banned.

Closing the stable door
Many say there should be a rule banning riders convicted for doping from working in team management. Few know this rule exists already. Rule 1.1.006 does ban those with prior convictions. But only those given full two year bans since 2011 are involved. It cannot be applied retrospectively, so riders rumbled a decade ago can’t be excluded, for example Vinokourov, Riis et al.

Team Scapegoat?
Astana come out looking bad from the recent revelations in La Gazzetta dello Sport but they’re far from alone. A lot of today’s “news” is actually a reprise of the story from 2012, only this time, like a reheated dish, it’s had some spice added in the form of new names being revealed, sums of money mentioned and some of the investigatory methods disclosed – including tracking the passage of certain athletes as they drive through autostrada toll booths. But to stress again, most of this came out in 2012.

Back in 2012 Astana were mentioned but riders from Liquigas, Lampre, Colnago, Geox, Androni, Katusha, Quick Step, CSf-Inox, Farnese Vini, Acqua & Sapone, Astana, RadioShack, Vacansoleil, ISD, LPR, Diquigiovanni, Tinkoff, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Milram were investigated too. Now it could be one rider from a team and they were duly cleared but the long list illustrates this goes well beyond one team and back then the pink paper said “whole teams” like Radioshack and Astana could be implicated. If Astana look bad in La Gazzetta today then, among others, several Katusha riders must also be feeling the heat too while Movistar’s J-J Rojas and Gio Visconti have used Twitter for denials. Exclusive: Vinokourov isn’t the only team owner to feature in an Interpol investigation.

Vincenzo Nibali

What’s the point?
Astana can now race in 2015 but why bother? The Kazakh development aspect has been blown apart because of the Continental team troubles so viewing the project as a means to allow Kazakh cyclists to progress has stopped. If the sponsors want to use the team to counter negative images of Borat and dodgy elections then the team’s shenanigans are only damaging Kazakhstan’s image. All while costing of €20 million a year. Maybe they’ll soldier on with talk of rebuilding trust but it’s turd polishing at best.

Summary
An unpopular decision but inevitable under the current system. It doesn’t make it right morally but the UCI can only deal with the rules it has and this is a lot safer than making up the process as it goes along – Malaysian nominations anyone? – only to be forced to repent at leisure and cost upon appeal.

As far as the World Tour team goes, strictly speaking the only change to Astana’s position since this time last year has been two cases of EPO use. Given other teams have got licences renewed following two pr more anti-doping prosecutions it’s explainable that Astana are licensed to race for 2015. But this is not the end of the matter. Today’s revelations in Gazzetta aren’t that new, what did the UCI do about them back in 2012? And if the facts about Astana change with new evidence from Padova then so will the status of the licence.

Beyond today’s administrative award Astana still faces an existential crisis. They’re cleared to race but the presence of Alexandr Vinokourov at any races will prove toxic to their image. They might be licensed to race but what is the point of the team?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Steve Potts Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:04 pm

    It’s all a bit of a mess, really. Strip away the ifs, ands and buts, and with the seemingly arbitrary imposition of sanctions regarding ex-dopers to work within the industry and it’s no wonder the general public sees cycling as still a dirty sport. It’s a good job Astana are not funded by private companies as any sponsor in their right mind would be distancing themselves from the team if not the sport as a whole as long as this sort of thing goes on.
    Cycling’s attempts to clean up its act are laudable but undermined by a labyrinthine rule book that seemingly has a get-out clause for many occasions. The UCI might not govern by reading newspaper reports but that’s what the many of the public uses to form its opinion. At the moment their approach can be likened to a sloppy surgeon who goes in to excise a cancer only to leave some of it behind….

    • Larry T. Thursday, 11 December 2014, 9:43 am

      +1 Will ASO take matters into their own hands as they have in the past with Astana? I’ll admit the previous exclusions haven’t seemed to change any behavior, but if Astana is allowed to continue with barely a slap on the wrist, pro cycling’s credibility remains in the dumpster. As much as I don’t like the amount of power ASO wields, in this case it should be used to show this sort of serial cheating will not be tolerated. Otherwise we’re not far from World Cycling Entertainment, so why not let Vince McMahon run things? Everyone would probably make a lot more money?

      • Adam Thursday, 11 December 2014, 10:10 am

        I’ve seen people mention ASO’s 2008 ban of Astana in a number of places, mostly with the hope of a repeat in 2015. Under current regulations do they even have the power to bar a World Tour team from World Tour events? Were there any legal reprisals from that situation last time round?

        I’d be surprised if a private race organiser, even one as powerful as ASO, could be seen to effectively undermining the sport’s governing body.

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 December 2014, 10:24 am

          That’s the dilemma. The Tour has a rule but using it is another matter. First it would undermine the UCI – why pay for a licence if you can’t ride the UCI – and then it could always go to CAS.

          Several years ago ASO did block Danilo Di Luca from the Tour. But they tried with Tom Boonen and it went to CAS, essentially if Boonen was cleared to race by the UCI then ASO could not exclude him:
          http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/boonen-can-start-in-the-tour

    • Bicieri Friday, 12 December 2014, 11:25 am

      “At the moment their approach can be likened to a sloppy surgeon who goes in to excise a cancer only to leave some of it behind….” +1
      The time is running out for the UCI to really clean things up. If they think they are to big to fail just look at Kodak or Nokia. How does the UCI suppose pro cycling teams will atract sponsors with the current state of affairs?

      • Sam Friday, 12 December 2014, 11:35 am

        You cant compare a sports governing body to a public company, for all kinds of reasons

        • Anonymous Friday, 12 December 2014, 1:38 pm

          Yes you ca, for all kind of reasons.

          • Sam Friday, 12 December 2014, 1:53 pm

            So some of the reasons why you cant:

            For starters, a sports governing body like the UCI has very little in the way of serious revenue generation channels other than the Worlds. You specifically cite Nokia and Kodak. So for example they do not manufacture anything a la a Kodak or a Nokia. The other ways the UCI have of generating revenue are extremely limited eg team licenses or doping fines.

            A public company is extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of stock markets, analysts evaluations, credit ratings, and to their major shareholders – and the demands placed by the later in particular.

            A sports governing body like the UCI have no powers to raise additional capital via the capital markets. Clearly unlike public companies.

            A sports governing body answers to pretty much no one in terms of a serious overlord. They sit under the umbrella of the IOC, but you could have a management committee made up of mass murderers and the IOC would struggle to take measures such as throw your sport out of the Olympics – which is about the only punative measure the IOC can take.

            Sports governing bodies have nothing like the same level of transparency in terms of reporting etc placed on them, as a public company.

            How many examples of sports governing bodies that have ‘fallen’ do you have? Unlike companies.

  • Dopeology Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:10 pm

    Perhaps pro cycling needs a rule like this one:
    lawtop20.blogspot.com/2012/05/bringing-game-into-disrepute-regulation.html

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:15 pm

      There’s one of those too in the rulebook and on top, races reserve this right too, for example the Tour or Giro can stop a team too. Using it is another matter though.

      • Dopeology Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:25 pm

        Yes, I just heard that so I came scuttling back 😉

        As you say, if it has been gathering dust it will be hard to use it. Indeed I wondered whether it might be more applicable to a Rovny vs Brambilla type of situation rather than a full-on team suspension.

      • Steve Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:43 pm

        How ASO/RCS try to deny a team a place on the start line, surely by an event being part of the ProTour then organizers must allocate spaces for all ProTour teams, regardless of their personal opinions?

        If I was a PT team who was denied a race spot, I would be pursuing the UCi for losses as I pay a large sum a year to visit all PT events, how can these organizers then ban me?

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 December 2014, 12:05 am

          They can but as you’d imagine it would unleash a storm and for now the settled convention is that the UCI sets the participation rules with wildcards left over.

  • Simon Denton Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:23 pm

    Do you think RCS and ASO will refuse Astana entry to their grand tours?

  • haps Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:36 pm

    hmmm
    Could all non world-tour race organizers choose not to invite Astana to their event?
    Could tech-sponsors choose not to suply the team?
    Could we, the weekend warrios choose not to buy their kits and bidons?

    Albeit Nibali is a superstar, contracts has been signed etc. – Maybe more stakeholders could/should take a stand, not expecting UCI to clean up the mess of the past – Riis/Berti are still considered national idols, I bet the same goes for Vino…

    I get the stick to the rules point, but it still seem like a sad day for cycling on the symbolical level.

  • TailWindHome Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:45 pm

    If it proven that Ferrari attended the Nov ’13 training camp can every rider and staff member at that camp be banned?

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 December 2014, 12:03 am

      No. Association is bad and indeed banned but you’d need to prove coaching links. If he walked in for a coffee and to talk about the weather prosecution gets harder.

      • ben Thursday, 11 December 2014, 12:27 am

        Isn’t it the case that under the terms of his ban, riders and staff are required to report any contact with Ferrari, so even if he did turn up just for a coffee and a chinwag, they can still be banned for not reporting that?

  • Skippy Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:46 pm

    Rules are ” RULES “!

    Are we going to have to wait until 2017 , when UCI propose to change a few other matters ?

    • Rod Thursday, 11 December 2014, 3:01 am

      I read somewhere (Cyclingtips?) that one of the conditions for licensing was that Astana was to be audited and subject to the 2017 rules – at their cost. Whether that makes a difference at this point is a different matter.

  • Samuel G Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 11:53 pm

    If Vinokourov is banned then can the team continue in its current form without him? Is he a true leader with genuine managerial talent or just a figurehead with good connections? Also what happens if enough riders get banned that the roster falls below 26, can the team continue racing?

  • Joel Thursday, 11 December 2014, 12:00 am

    Doping tests for every rider in the Astana team every week all year please Brian.

  • Joel Thursday, 11 December 2014, 12:03 am

    That of course would mean they slip into oblivion

  • diamondjim Thursday, 11 December 2014, 3:20 am

    As you’ve indicated, you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.
    🙂

  • Joe K. Thursday, 11 December 2014, 5:28 am

    Yes, the turd polishing reference was a true gem–of a turd! ^.^

  • Colin Cox Thursday, 11 December 2014, 5:44 am

    There is such an uproar over this latest headline because even the most cynical and jaded among us had come to believe there may be some hope for the sport, the slightest bit of light at the end of the tunnel. At the very least, the riders at the front were juicing a little less. But no, nothing has changed.
    One thing I have never understood is why they all go to the same doc. Surely there other equally talented doctors under less scrutiny.

    • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 11:47 am

      Actually, this probably isn’t the worst that is/was/has been happening. What you always happen to discover about “present cycling” (or about the previous four or five years) tends to concern second-line riders and doctors, people who have become marginal for the system or whom the system wants to make such. That explains something you’re wondering about. It’s not that they all go to the same doctor, it’s that they are being caught those who couldn’t gain access to anything better, and they’re being caught *because* they were going – moreover, in different moments – to the same doctor (to understand it better, we should see the riders working with Ferrari on a timeline, not just all together as the Gazzetta publishes it).
      We’ll get a better picture in 2025 or something like that.

  • Alex Thursday, 11 December 2014, 7:28 am

    Just more disappointment for the fans, and Nibali is now guilty by association in the eyes of many. Guilty until proven innocent, but never beyond a reasonable doubt. The cheaters are still a cancer on this sport, but unlike Lance’s ball they just keep slithering back. And in positions of power!!! In the short term, I’ll probably stick to watching one-day races this year. The grand tours’ results are still a few years from believability. If the sport wants to change, the likes of Riis and Vino have got to go, banned for life.

  • Ian Thursday, 11 December 2014, 8:41 am

    Excellent summation of the situation. It is a mess. The UCI are bound as you say and the likes of the Tour and the Giro are never going to take a stand and not invite Nibali and his team.

    Interesting to see Pete Kennaugh speak out on behalf of the clean riders, saying they need to get together to push the cheats out.. More of that is needed for a start and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes of the Padova enquiry. It will be interesting to see the reaction by roadside fans to Astana and the names on the Padova list, will they still cheer them?

    If Nibali is truly clean and innocent of anything other than joining a bad egg in Vinokourov at Astana then I feel sorry for him, but again, like Armstrong, the feeling is only time will tell.

    • RocksRootsRoad Thursday, 11 December 2014, 1:56 pm

      …and if we wonder why more clean cyclists don’t get involved – have a look at Kennaugh’s twitter timeline on this matter. You can undertand why more pro-riders don’t speak out.

      • Red Hare Friday, 12 December 2014, 10:44 am

        Man, I feel sorry for Pete. Some of the people there are crazy.

        • Sam Friday, 12 December 2014, 10:55 am

          Bat-sheet crazy.

          And you know full well that face-to-face none of those keyboard warriors would say boo to a goose.

  • Atlaz Thursday, 11 December 2014, 9:34 am

    How was Vino able to say he had no connection to Ferrari if he had a load of payments to Ferrari in the USADA docs? Are/Were the UCI so messed up they ignored it?

    • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 11:31 am

      Vinokourov never did, as long as I know.

      • Nick Thursday, 11 December 2014, 3:01 pm

        If asked, I guess he’d say that the connections linked to Ferrari by USADA related to a period a long time ago, prior to his doping ban, that he’s now served his punishment and become a reformed character. (He wouldn’t be alone among DSs.) He could then plausibly deny any later contacts.

        What’s interesting to me is the idea that Astana’s licence is supposed to be “provisional” and that their anti-doping/general ethical standards are meant to be investigated by the University of Lausanne. That seems a new development: UCI saying that they can’t withhold a licence on the basis of the info before them, but they have grounds to doubt some of that info and so are issuing a provisional licence while an independent 3rd party reviews the info. I wonder if this will become more widely used and, if so, whether it will actually help?

  • Anonymous Thursday, 11 December 2014, 9:34 am

    Excellent piece INRNG. Infuriatingly level-headed…! One thing you mention that really winds me up is that long list of teams that were implicated in 2012. A lot of old team names that have now changed. Which makes it seem so distant, but it was only 2 years ago! The vast majority of those riders are still in the peleton but just with different logos on their backs. Ho-hum.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 11 December 2014, 10:51 am

    Vino, just an ugly stain on the sport.

  • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 11:29 am

    Your “long list” should comprise also Team Sky, or Team Highroad, since Possoni spent with them most of his career, and, more specifically, the years addressed by the Padua investigation 😉

    Anyway, mind the smiley…: I believe that, currently, whatever speculation based on Gazzetta’s *revelations* is utterly useless.
    A lot of very old information cut & pasted together without a couple of very basic “W” which would be needed to call it “journalism”: to start with, *when* did the relevant facts happen? (or if you prefer, *where*, that is, in what team were those riders riding?)
    The investigation was closed in 2012, but it doesn’t mean that the facts they recollected were related to that year. Most of them should be dated around 2009. Note that I’m not stressing it because I actually feel that “cycling is now clean” – quite the opposite – but because we can’t say much if the *information* we’re offered is altogether mixed-up.
    (…Besides, from a merely theoretical point of view it would be interesting to see if the mostly mediocre riders that have been listed showed any kind of shift in their performance when working with Ferrari…)

    And *what* are we speaking about? When they name again and again riders that have been already sanctioned because of their connection with Ferrari, are they suggesting that there are new facts or are they just trying to rise the number of those involved to blow the importance of the article out of its proper proportion?
    They don’t even differentiate the names that appear in the paperwork because of hearsay, without any validation by police investigations, so that we can’t even say that *at least* whoever is named really has some kind of link with Ferrari.
    The *facts* are so blurred that Gazzetta boasts that “17 Astana riders” are linked to Ferrari. Cyclingnews follows up on that at 11:00 am, but some ten hours later apparently proceeds to recount and says three 2014 riders and ten riders with “past links to the team”. I won’t bother counting myself, but I suppose that a journalist should. Where did that “17” came out from?

    The only news looks like to be the Montecatini visit by Ferrari. They supposedly have got photos, but they won’t show them. It’s not clear who did take those photos, either (the police investigation had been already closed during autumn 2013, so the Carabinieri shouldn’t be hanging around). It brings to my mind other “photos” that never appeared, those of Nibali training with Ferrari in a black suit… the source and the journalist were duly sued and even if they tried to retract everything, they nevertheless had to admit the hoax and pay. Or the “photos” which a very different group of tifosi still hopes to see surfacing, those of the rival teams celebrating the exclusion of Pantani the night before his high-hematocrit test.

    I don’t know what sport journalism is like around the world, but Gazzetta is way far from being any kind of reliable source. Which doesn’t mean that what they’re saying can’t be proved true (at least in part): the worst liars happen to say the truth sometimes, maybe unwittingly or accidentally. But, as a matter of method, what we’ve been presented with up to now can’t be used for any sort of reflection, as you wouldn’t with mere inventions.

    • Larry T. Thursday, 11 December 2014, 11:59 am

      I wasn’t even counting the Gazzetta “revelations” when I wrote that something should be done. This (you can stop before December 8, 2014) is enough for me http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/astana-timeline-eight-years-of-shadows. The only teams that come close to this rap sheet might be USPS/Discovery and of course that mess spilled over into this one awhile back. Someone has to say ENOUGH and the only ones left are ASO. I think keeping Astana out of their races is a risk worth taking, even if they end up losing at CAS. I write this as one who will really miss seeing Nibali and Aru race in 2015, but the sport should be more important than any single rider and both knew the history of this team before they made their “deal with the devil.”

      • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 1:18 pm

        Astana is highly problematic, as you would expect in the case of any public-funded, nationalist team – or in the case of most big teams in professional sport.
        That said, the cyclingnews article looks quite biased. One of the few paragraphs I’d save is the following one (even if “was not the only team to” could be changed “just as nearly every other team used to”):
        “Astana was not the only team to have riders test positive in 2007, or 2010, or indeed 2014. It was not the only team to risk losing a WorldTour licence for financial and ethical impropriety in the past eight years. It was not only team to hire riders, managers and doctors with dubious doping histories. It was not the only team to re-hire riders who had already tested positive in its colours. It was not the only team to exploit internal testing as a PR opportunity”.

        The problem is that it’s just a sort of void disclaimer, whereas the rest of the article goes on to stress a kind of uniqueness and/or continuity in Astana’s situation, while, for example, it can’t be ignored that not only there were big changes in management, but even huge conflict between very different groups of power. We can say that all those groups had some kind of doping problem at some point in time, but it just make no sense to charge one of them with what the others did – elsewhere!
        Not to speak of the unfair presentation of the OP matter in 2006. You could as well say that ASO tried everything to have the team out, including false accusations. What kind of attitude is that?

        Cyclingnews duly cites doping problems *every single time* they name some riders. Curiously enough, they don’t make any reference to doping problems when they happen to name, say, Matt White, whom they even interviewed recently as a respectable voice about UCI reform. Note that White’s dismissal from Garmin implied something way more serious (for what we know up to now) than what, say, Contador ever did.

        Astana is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You find there what you expect to find… just because it’s where you look. And because you decide what’s relevant or not.
        But Astana is just the showcase of how cycling works, in general.
        You could say: “well, why shouldn’t we punish hard, at least, them, since they *are* guilty?”.
        And the answer would be: because that’s how we got here.
        It’s always the same silly pattern: an evil team or nation or rider is identified and, to start with, the others look cleaner by contrast! Or, at least, it makes a lot easier to forget about them. Then it comes the feeling that you could punish or, even better, exclude the bad guys and things would go way better. Something is done in that direction. Everything goes on just as it always did.
        Out of experience, I don’t believe that any good comes from any sanction imposed to single subjects without going up and rearranging something at a system level. Don’t you remember how many teams were caught, condemned and ultimately folded (with a team doping proven way further than in Astana’s case)? Festina? Telekom? Phonak? Gerolsteiner, anyone?

        “Maybe it doesn’t hurt, either”, I used to think. But now I believe that this old pattern, the tragic comedy or comic tragedy of “evil dopers” exposed and chastised, is an important part of the ongoing processes which prevent the change. And I’m even more and more worried now, since I see a specific effort by institutions and media which is very much focussed on this single situation and is often not proportionated to the facts we have.
        Need an example to get it? Well, the whole story of the U23 steroid positives. To me, the big news is not the one related to Astana. The pretty shocking news is that, apparently, in the biggest U23 competitions they don’t check for steroids by default!
        Very late positive test results haven’t been explained officially (and that’s not so transparent, to start with), but most commentators, inrng included, argued that they were retesting the samples now to look for steroids. If it was true, it would mean that U23 are literally licensed to dope (do you think that the teams don’t get to know what’s being tested?). With the possibility to catch them later, whenever it should turn useful.
        No journalist went into this not-really-secundary issue, maybe because some of them were too occupied thinking up this kind of witty encouragement to forget whatever didn’t fit in the ruling narrative:
        “Forget the semantics: the WorldTour and Continental teams are part of the same entity, and five positive tests in three months would be more than enough, one imagines, for most other WorldTour sponsors to pull the plug on their commitment”.

        • Larry T. Thursday, 11 December 2014, 2:20 pm

          I promise this is the last post from me on this subject. First, as I understand it Vino is/was present throughout the whole Astana program. Various puppets have come and gone as far as management/direction, but Vino is the continuous thread from the start. Second, the “everyone else did it too” argument is pretty tired these days. At some point, if the sport is to be rebuilt in a credible manner (and you can decide whether that’s worthwhile, but WADA was created as a result of commercial sponsors demands to clean things up) these serial offenders need to be held accountable in a genuine way. Rather than ask why this person or that one wasn’t punished in the past, why not start with the here and now? This squad appears to have a serious problem respecting the rules. If they can continue to flout them, the rules and the sanctioning body begin to look pointless and ineffective, hence my snarky reference to letting pro cycling devolve into World Cycling Entertainment rather than a sport. What do YOU suggest be done to create a credible sport?

          • Andrea Thursday, 11 December 2014, 2:31 pm

            Good point on the strength of the governing body. It should be creating rules so there is accountability here and now.

          • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 3:45 pm

            I think you didn’t got it, and I can’t blame you since my reply was far from succinct. I can’t do much better, so I’ll stop it here, too, I guess.

            You need to ask why some people weren’t punished, and maybe *aren’t* punished nor questioned, because that may explain how was it that the sport didn’t get better even if we had an impressive series of “here and now” when *cheaters were caught* and someone was “held accountable”.
            Learning through trial and error would imply discarding what doesn’t work, to start with.
            You really don’t need to hit harder where you’re seeing something (just go on watching them closely and they’ll stop or be caught), you need to look better where you’re not seeing anything. Or don’t want to.

            My argument is not: “everyone did it (= let’s forget it)”. It is: why such a different attitude by institutions and media towards different subjects who did the same things? Why the “bad guys” focus and not a broad perspective? What I said about the U23 thing or Matt White exemplifies it quite well.

            What do I suggest? As I said before, you need to define “credible” in the first place. From what you and many readers say, I think that it would suffice to extend and improve the current farce, maybe renouncing to use doping as a political weapon. Is tennis credible? Is it football? Is it basketball? Is it rugby? Is it cricket?
            That would be *credible* enough for most believers, who look pretty prone to adhere to compelling narratives.
            At the end of the day, even Astana is not so bad for credibility in the deformed cycling Weltanschauung, because it helps many people to go on believing in their own heroes, at least shifting their attention. Astana anger makes people feel like “oh, if we only had Vino out”, and that’s all. They think that cycling is not very credible, but their perception is probably better and more optimistic than reality, so we’ve got a PR success, here. People are led to hope that cycling *could* be cleaned scolding Astana and the such, and that’s more “credible” than the harsh truth.

            If you’re asking me how to make it “credible” in the sense of fighting doping, well, you’d need to have… the intention of fighting doping, something that neither the sponsors nor cycling management (that is, nor DS, nor race organizers, nor federations, nor the UCI) really have. So I see as hard to achieve something which only riders and fans – the weakest parts of the sport – would be interested in.
            It shouldn’t be about how to handle single cases, it should be about the frame you might create.
            Broad testing in the youngster ranks (hey, and let’s try not to forget roids this time!), wide transparency with BP data maybe involving independent researchers’ participation, an international all-sports-wide antidoping agency funded by gov money with common, shared rules, some kind of serious commission to investigate past years, shameless incentives to (demonstrable) confessions and blah blah blah. Can’t see it happen. And I don’t think it’s because the nasty Vino prevents everyone else doing it.

            PS As a footnote, Vinokourov was not present throughout the whole Astana program, he had been left aside during his period out and someone in the political ranks of the federation even worked with the Bruyneel structure to kick Vino out.

    • Sam Thursday, 11 December 2014, 1:15 pm

      To date, Astana the team have not made any sort of formal denial to the GdS stories, which they running on Monday.

      They have not even denied the claim re Ferrari at the Montecatini team camp.

      But maybe they’re saving it all for the massive libel suit they’re doubtless going to launch against GdS for printing falsehoods.

      • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 2:07 pm

        I don’t know if they’ll say anything from now on, I can even add that I doubt it.
        Nevertheless, it’s unfair to stress as you do the fact that “to date” they haven’t denied the story “running on Monday”, since Astana indeed declared they wouldn’t comment on that until official communications were released by the UCI about the license (which happened yesterday night, I think). Not Astana’s worst decision, IMHO.
        Moreover, the suit you suggest would be very complicated under Italian laws, even more so because Gazzetta says they found the information in police files which are secreted, and should remain such until formal incrimination. It’s not clear how they got it, but what’s sure is that no judge could put his hands on it to prove if Gazzetta printed the truth or not.
        I really don’t like Astana’s structure, even if I appreciate some of their riders; just as I appreciated a lot Vinkourov as a rider (quite not the same thing as a manager, and it’s not about doping). But I really don’t like the team, maybe also because Italy and Kazakhstan have got sick commercial relations that have led to quite nauseating political episodes.
        All the same, I found myself “defending” Astana since the public attitude on the subject looks quite crazy, and powerfully media driven.
        One reason more to say “hats off” to inrng, whose article is impressively balanced.

  • Souln Thursday, 11 December 2014, 1:53 pm

    Great article (as always) “something must be done” don’t equate to “do anything“ – pure gold

    • gabriele Thursday, 11 December 2014, 2:07 pm

      + 1

  • Andrea Thursday, 11 December 2014, 2:23 pm

    Do the rules say what a team needs to do to pass the ethical criteria? From a good sense perspective, Astana should not have been awarded the license. I want to believe that the UCI is trying to build a “moral” case until February, when the audit results are due. In any case, the UCI didn’t pass the communications/transparency test, it just fuelled the outrage.

    • TourDeUtah Thursday, 11 December 2014, 5:17 pm

      You expected UCI to act any differently ?

      They never change just the names of those who perpetuate the sham. : (

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 December 2014, 5:25 pm

      What are the ethical reason’s you’d deny them? We all know they have plenty to explain but Vino’s past was known this time last year etc, so if the UCI has given them a licence every year since they stepped into the Puerto wreckage of Manolo Saiz, including the Bruyneel years and those when Alberto Contador was working with Pepe Marti and Pedro Celaya and got stripped of a Tour de France title. See the CN track record for the whole thing: http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/astana-timeline-eight-years-of-shadows

      Given this it’s unlikely to imagine anything would change for 2015 given the rules haven’t changed. The UCI did try to take a stand on ethics with Katusha but lost at the CAS and paid plenty for this.

      • Andrea Friday, 12 December 2014, 4:32 am

        Thanks, that puts things into perspective.

      • Nick Friday, 12 December 2014, 10:29 am

        I’m not sure it’s quite right to say “Vino’s past was well known last year, so can’t really be taken into account this year”. Ethical behaviour, whatever that is, surely exists along a sliding scale from more to less ethical. Vino’s track record could be a mark against Astana (like many other DSs’ against their teams), which *when taken together with* information may potentially add up to enough to see them tip over the line.

        In this case, the past plus the new information wasn’t enough to tip them over the line, but was enough to get them into the new probationary category. As noted above, we’ll see how often this gets used between now and 2017.

        We’ll also have to see how long Vino’s past can be held against him; at some point his doping convictions should become spent.

        • Sam Friday, 12 December 2014, 10:34 am

          Its the Padova investigation that will possibly take Vino way beyond the territory of his own doping conviction. Allegedly arranging for 10-12 other riders to contract with Ferrari?

        • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 December 2014, 10:48 am

          There is the statute of limitations. But if a rider or manager appears again and again in the press, then they must be invited in to account for this. If they want to deny everything, let them put it in writing in a sworn deposition to the UCI. Should any revelations or legal documents appear in the future the statute of limitations could be reset, as with Armstrong using the “Hellebuyck” precedent. At the very least the UCI should be asking questions even if the answers aren’t forthcoming, it’s better than waiting for a file that might never arrive or turns up a decade late.

          • Nick Friday, 12 December 2014, 1:33 pm

            Agreed. One would hope the “audit” process allows some of the questions to be asked, and answers to be recorded.

  • Shawn Thursday, 11 December 2014, 3:47 pm

    Regarding the imposed audits of both Astana and Fluo Yellow, what info. would be sufficient to revoke their licenses? It’s all good to make these licenses conditional but what exactly is the condition that would trigger them getting the boot? Any details on this?

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 December 2014, 4:39 pm

      The “audit” isn’t what we normally think of, it’s a new thing the UCI has been experimenting with concern team practices, culture and more. It’s more subjective because of this, I suppose in a classic financial audit you can either find/follow the money or you can’t. Here it’s about coaching resources, training sessions and so on. Interviewing team staff on attitudes towards training, cutting corners etc is going to be harder work and easier for people to gain. Hopefully we get to see the report but it might never be made public.

      • Shawn Thursday, 11 December 2014, 5:04 pm

        Thanks. If that’s true, it’s hard to imagine that either team will have their license revoked by the audit’s findings. Instead, the auditors will propose ‘best practices’ that the teams will need to conform to in order to be in good standing. Hopefully it will not simply be a cosmetic applied to an ugly situation but I have my doubts.

  • Stephane Thursday, 11 December 2014, 3:51 pm

    OK, Brian Cookson is relying on rules to avoid a case like Katusha’s. Therefore what is the utility of commissions and governing bodies if decisions are taken only on rules ??? It seems rules are enough to regulate. The governing bodies must comply to the rules but their role is to make decisions ! The UCI has decided they would make no decision as of now. Cookson is useless.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 11 December 2014, 4:46 pm

      The UCI are a governing body and therefore very dependent on their rules. It can and does change the rules from time to time. But overall it’s about complying with existing rules and these see an independent Licence Commission rule based on the existing rules.

      In the strict sense, the whole point is Cookson is supposed to be useless here, in that it’s not a job for the President. Getting into the World Tour shouldn’t depend on whether Cookson is in a bad mood or has read something in a newspaper. One wider problem for the UCI is it’s almost always Cookson this, Cookson that; the same with McQuaid before. They could put a lot more people and roles in the spotlight.

  • channel_zero Thursday, 11 December 2014, 9:58 pm

    It’s bad but other teams have had two or three positives in a year and kept their licence, for example say ciao! to Fluo Yellow who get their Pro Conti licence today. So everything else, the Conti team triple positives, Vinokourov’s reputation, La Gazzetta’s recent revelations, didn’t count.

    This is something the UCI could have fixed with rules modifications. But, no such changes even discussed. Which is telling. Not one word from the IOC on the huge, multi-layer IAAF doping scandal either.

    These sports are perfectly okay with doping.

    • Nick Friday, 12 December 2014, 10:34 am

      “Not one word from the IOC on the huge, multi-layer IAAF doping scandal either.”

      Apart from the IOC President saying that they would act with “zero tolerance”, whatever that means, if the allegations were proven.