Astana’s Tale of Two Brothers

valentin iglinskiy

If you fell into a coma six years ago and came around yesterday it would seem as if nothing had changed. Manolo Saiz was appointed as a team preparador and hours later one of his old riders, whom the Italian federation tried but failed to ban, won Milano-Torino. Amid the wreckage left by Saiz, Alexandr Vinokourov created the Astana team and yesterday the UCI slipped out another PDF with Kazakh rider Maxim Iglinskiy named for a positive A-test for EPO.

Maxim Iglinskiy’s been provisionally suspended by the UCI. It follows the positive test by his younger brother Valentin earlier this month who confessed and didn’t bother asking for his B-sample test. But it’s different with Maxim.

Team suspension
Astana are members of the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC), a group of teams signing up to a self-regulatory code that goes beyond the WADA rules. One of the rules says a team must suspend itself from racing following two positive tests during a 12 month period. Only there’s a different stance for the second case, here’s an excerpt from Astana’s statement:

“the rider is suspended provisionally and shall remain out of competition in anticipation of the results from the B analysis”

There’s no confession and the team is waiting for the B-sample, a procedural stance. Nevertheless team manager Vinokourov isn’t sitting on the fence and vents on Maxim with talk of anger. Let’s compare the statements:

Astana on Valentin Astana on Maxim
a rider who failed to respect the rules and ethics as stipulated in his contract this rider could not have understood the basis of our rules and the importance of our ethics

So in both cases angry words and the team is saying each flunked on ethics and rules, but Maxim gets the conditional tense.

Timing is everything
You can’t help but wonder if the difference is down to the MPCC rules: the collective team suspension only follows following the B-sample confirmation. If Valentin was dispatched immediately to protect the team’s image there’s now an incentive to play for time with Maxim’s case to save face. Why? Because the MPCC says a team suspension and starts on the first day of the next World Tour race and lasts eight days. The next World Tour race is Il Lombardia on Sunday and it would mean the team can’t race the Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan, also on Sunday, and crucially, their home race and the only chance for the Kazakh people to see Vincenzo Nibali. To add to the embarrassment it also means the team could not do the Tour of Beijing. Given Kazakhstan shares a 2,000km border with China and increasing trade links a no-show wouldn’t look good. Plus given the team is really Italian by staff it would mean no Fabio Aru in Il Lombardia. (Maxim Iglinskiy won the Tour of Almaty last year and won’t be back, it’d be interesting to see how the Kazakh press handles that).

Instead playing for time waiting for due process to follow means the MPCC rules will still apply in the event of a B-sample positive but to the next World Tour race, namely the Tour Down Under. It’ll be an embarrassing “where are you” when all the teams assemble for the new year but for the Kazakhs at least surely a better option?

Astana could take a third option and ignore the MPCC rules, after all they’re only voluntary. But so far teams have gone through with the self-flagellation and collective punishment. First came Ag2r La Mondiale in 2013 after two riders tested positive, one for EPO and one for stupidity, but the team took it on the chin and had to sit out the Dauphiné, their “home” race for a team with its service course in the Alps and vital prep before the Tour de France. It didn’t hit the headlines much but the Rusvelo team suspended itself in July 2013 too.

These suspensions aren’t automatic as they need the UCI approval. The MPCC might be rules among teams but the UCI’s own rules require World Tour teams to participate. When Ag2r stopped it had to get approval from the Professional Cycling Council, a UCI committee. Presumably this is forthcoming but in recent remarks in Ponferrada UCI President Brian Cookson welcomed the MPCC to some extent but also saidit would be better if there was compliance with only one set of rules” adding “they [the MPCC rules] are not obligatory“. It’s normal, seeing top teams say “the UCI rules aren’t enough, we need to go further” isn’t a vote of confidence. Astana could potentially use this for leverage but it could easily backfire as the UCI has so far worked well with the MPCC, for example incorporating the praiseworthy “no needle” policy.

In terms of politics and image, Astana surely needs the MPCC more than the MPCC needs them. The team was created from the ashes of Operation Puerto and has had regular scandals – even Roman Kreuziger’s passport case dates to his time on the team – and when Vincenzo Nibali was lapping France this summer it wasn’t so much his performances that were being questioned but the honesty of those running the team such as Beppe Martinelli and Alexandr Vinokourov. If someone made a dopage version of pro cycling trumps Vino would be an ace card. Signing up to the MPCC has been one way for the team to show commitment to new values.

Improved test, targeted test?
We won’t get answers but the testing makes you wonder. What made the UCI pick these riders, were their passports ringing an alarm bell to encourage extra testing or was just pure luck? Maxim was tested on 1 August and Valentin on 11 August but it was Valentin’s positive that came out first. Did lab results prompt the UCI to go back and revisit Maxim’s sample? EPO can be hard to test for but with analysis even micro-dosing can sometimes be rumbled, ask Matteo Rabbotini and others. We’ll never know and this could be for the better, an air of mystery over what can and cannot be detected will frighten some riders and “doctors”.

Maxim’s innocent for now but feel free to be suspicious given his brother admitted it all. Even Vinokourov is angry, lamenting misunderstood rules and ethics instead of employing cautious phrases about “due process” and so on.

But if Vinokourov is angry he’s got no reason to rush this. Valentin was ejected bystro to close down the story while Maxim calmly awaits the B-sample, helpfully delaying Astana’s collective suspension to a more suitable period. As bad as the brothers look the team management need to be careful about gaming the rules and ethics to suit their race and publicity agenda. Should it turn out Maxim is only delaying his confession to help the team ride at home then the whole team’s credibility is undermined. And it’s just a matter of time until Manolo Saiz is driving the Astana team car.

96 thoughts on “Astana’s Tale of Two Brothers”

  1. Another excellent blog INRNG. This should also act as a warning to those who have believed that the Armstrong case saw the end of the sports problems.
    There has undoubtedly been an improvement, but the core cause of the problem has never been removed from the sport. This case sits alongside the Kreuziger case, where once again the team owner and manager are exploiting the system to the full, whilst knowing that there is the potential for wrongdoing. If the sport wants to move forward, it is time it seriously addressed the problems of individuals, who by their actions, appear to condone possible cheating. This constant flow of unsavoury news does the sport great damage.
    As already said, let this be a warning and cautionary lesson that everything is not as well as some would have you believe.

    • And it may even be worse than *you* believe O_o

      I’m thinking of those individuals (or groups) who *don’t appear* to condone possible cheating, or, even worst, those who appear *not to condone* possible cheating.

      Well, I’m joking (to a certain extent): as I commented below, as a fan I really appreciate the PR work to keep the toy safe, pharisaic it may be. From an ethical point of view, it hurts a lot, but so it goes.

      • Really? Honestly, I think it’s sad. Not an jibe at you, I mean it’s sad in general. I’m a newbie RR fan, and the only reason I began paying so much attention to cycling during/after the TdF is that I had lost almost all interest in my old hobby, because it’s dysfunctional, the fans I had most in common with were utterly disillusioned (to the point of self-loathing in some cases), and the consensus was that it would never get better… So, yeah, the doping subject is new to me, but some of the things I see said about it are a little familiar.

        If cycling is seriously at the point where almost everyone is convinced the whole peloton is tweaked and we’re just being babied, and it’s /true/, I’d rather someone reveal the institutionalised doping in one fell swoop (not just dramatic but unhelpful comments from e.g. Kohl) and risk having the entire sport torn up, my trust shattered etc., than to live in uncertainty for ten years only to find out [whoever] was doping the whole time… because that didn’t seem very fun for most people the last time that happened.

        Of course, that’s only the way I view things. And I have it easy–I didn’t grow up watching the sport. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending) my opinion, or even the opinion of someone who’s watched this for their entire lives, doesn’t count for too much at the moment–we’re not the ones paying the riders or UCI.

        • Well, cycling is great and will continue to be, but if you want certainty that there is not doping, I guess there are not any sports available. It goes on everywhere and it appears that the vast majority of athletes do something, the difference in cycling is that there are more tests and people getting caught. In my mind it doesn’t ruin the experience of being a fan, though.

          • I don’t want 100% certainty there is no doping, I’d never be happy that way. I’m idealistic, not totally off the planet!

            It’s just, from my perspective, the people who seem to be long-time fans, are bitter about doping, and think pretty much everyone is doing it on the kind of scale Kohl et al suggests and UCI etc are in on it, then apparently watch anyway while making pithy sarcastic comments on Twitter, are choosing an odd way to spend their time. When you believe nothing of what you see on the screen, why are you even sticking around? Habit?

            It’s not even that that gets me, it’s the way I see some of them make ‘I bet you were a fan of Lance too :)’-esque comments at people questioning the everyone-is-doping hypothesis. It’s like they think because they “know” what’s behind the curtain, they’ll be the smart ‘I always suspected’ lot and not the gullible, innocent fans who were sucked in when it turns out a cyclist or a few was cheating–even though they were watching them pedal up mountains for days on end as intently as everyone else. Like I said: sad.

            (if this comment seems rather harsh, it’s been building since last Monday’s shorts)

          • I can’t speak for others, but this is how I see it…
            I suspect that doping is (even nowadays) rather endemic, anyway I’m quite certain it sure was. That doesn’t mean 100%, but it means a system where “not doping” was the anomaly.
            A system where most of doping, the doping which made a real difference, was managed by teams, encouraged by sponsors, covered by institutions and race organizers.
            All in all, the word “doping” is like the word “cancer”, an umbrella word which covers a lot of very different phenomena, some of them are decreasing, right now, some are maybe increasing.
            That said, this doesn’t affect my vision of cycling. I know that doping is just a part of the equation, and its importance in the majority of results is relative. Very much of what you see depends on many more factors besides doping, and it’s not so difficult to see them and enjoy. Doping or not.
            Even if some people have been trying to make cycling “a sport of watts”, it never was and it won’t end up like that, in the medium term (maybe even in the short).
            I really can’t understand fans – especially old fans – who feel so deceived or uncertain because of doping in cycling: when a performance depends mainly on doping, you can feel it nearly at once, so no surprise coming to disappoint you; when the performance didn’t depend just on doping, even if the athlete was doping, what was good remains the same.
            This doesn’t mean that I’m indifferent about doping.
            What I really hope, for riders’ health’s sake, is that one day a serious fight against doping will be brought on, but I’m afraid that it won’t happen, since doping isn’t really a problem for most social actors in cycling. Quite the opposite.
            In the short term, I’d be satisfied with a policy of containment and restraint to grant an equilibrium of interests (and, as a positive side effect, to avoid binge doping), which is maybe what we’re having or seeking now; but I still would be worried about the constant temptation to use antidoping as a political weapon, which is fostered by the present importance of antidoping tools with significant arbitrary elements.

    • These “brothers-in-epo” sit alogside the Kreuziger case with the potential for wrongdoing, where Tinkov and Riis are exploiting the system to the full?! You are true poet, BC!

      • Not a poet at all KBB. You have missed out one crucial evil character in you attempt to deflect the reality of the situation. But lets not let the facts get in the way !

        • Ok, lets get in touch with the prose of the reality.

          V.I. – sample A positive for EPO, confessed doper;
          M.I. – sample A positive for EPO, waiting for sample B result;
          R.K. – no sample positive, no single abnormal bio passport finding;
          Tinkov (team owner) – no connection to the RK in that 2011-2012 period in question, no involvement in the RK proceedings;
          Riis (team manager) – no connection to the RK in that 2011-2012 period in question, no involvement in the RK proceedings.

          So where is that lost crucial evil character in someone´s attempt to deflect the reality of the situation?

          • I think you do protest too much KBB. Lets await the final outcome of these cases before jumping to conclusions. I hope you are still around to remind me. You don’t have the inside tract on these cases, and probably not the qualifications to continue defending your well known view. It all gets a little repetitive. There is another evil character in the mix now – maybe you can find it within yourself to defend him as well !

    • +1 I’m going to l’Eroica this weekend where (I hope) the only doping is with salami and red wine. MPCCC is a joke, only having Pat McQuaid as president could make it more of a farce.

        • If Astana skates out of the exclusion from competition called for in their rules on this flimsy technicality, it exposes MPCCC as a joke. How does one take EPO if not via a needle?

          • Larry, it’s not a flimsy technicality. While it isn’t likely, the A sample could have been a false positive. Even if you and I both know they are using the rules to their advantage, the MPCC rules allow for what Astana chose to do. Assume for a second that Iglinsky were to be cleared after the B test (not likely). If the team sat out their only race on home soil based on a result that turned out to be false, their nationalist sponsors would have heads rolling. Sport is business, like it or not. Whether or not you like this specific situation, MPCC has brought good change to the sport. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the “good old days” of wooden rims and wool shorts somehow meant less dope was being used. At least given today’s environment, cheats are getting caught, and teams are being called out openly on their less than ideal procedures (ala Froomes tue, etc.).

            If current bike racing is so bad, go watch old racing videos!


          • MPCCC is a spin group trying to reform the IMAGE of cycling while doing little in actual reform. If Astana would follow the spirit of this rule, they’d sit out, but they don’t give a rat’s ass about the spirit, it’s all about the exact wording of the rules. Reminds me of the guy who claimed he “didn’t have sex with that woman”. Technically he didn’t, but if your wife walked in on you getting what he got, would she see it that way? I don’t see any restoration of pro cycling’s credibility in Astana’s action, sorry. And please don’t patronize me as someone who thinks cycling was clean when wheels were wood and shorts were wool, OK?

          • They’ve got cortisone testing, have got the UCI to implement the no-needle policy and it’s beneficial for the sport, see the way Chris Horner had to sit out the Vuelta for health reasons. I see the good work here. The fact that the likes of Astana need to cling to this is the joke, not the MPCC itself.

          • By my count (which may be wrong and I would be happy to be corrected) 6 doping positives in the last 12 months have come from riders in teams signed up to the MPCC versus 2 positives from riders in other teams. That doesn’t seem particularly “credible” to me.

  2. This guy is a monument winner… well done for inrng for making this a lead news story when other leading sites have hidden it down the page. I got interested in cycling in 2009 and it’s increasingly looking, sadly, like all the old lies are being told all over again. Very saddening.

    • I’ve seen it front page on other sites but on the subject of publicity I don’t get how the name is sneaked out inside a PDF on the UCI website. If a monument-winning World Tour team member who rode alongside Vincenzo Nibali during the Tour de France isn’t a name to announce, who is?

      • Antidoping has had a wide political use during the Verbruggen/McQuaid era.
        There’s even a notorious statement about that from Hein, just a bit less famous than Ferrari’s orange juice or Verbruggen himself’s *triple never*.
        The problem with that was that while you were playing war games with the toy, you spoiled it. The new policy is trying not to spoil the toy. It’s something worth praising, indeed. I won’t complain if cycling is spared from social destruction.
        Though, it would be even better if they tried to enforce a rigorous antidoping only for antidoping’s sake (protecting the health of riders, or something like that), and stopped playing Risk. Dreaming is free, isn’t it?

      • Not that I know, but I think this is a new policy from the UCI: All persons caught will only be stated in the said pdf, no more “shouting from roof tops” when a prominent rider is caught. It is – I think – a kind of treating everybody the same.
        The jounalists etc. interested will have bookmarked the page already but, and I think this is a correct, the “new” UCI doesn’t feel the obligation to shout about famous names when they are caught. It is not for the UCI to do that – anymore.

  3. It’s a no brainer to play for time – you get to race your “home” race with the bonus of avoiding all the expense of flying riders and kit over for the TdU.

    could be a new tactic for teams on tight budgets – get 2 fall guys into the team to test positive at the end of the season and save a fortune on having to race in Australia!

  4. I don’t think the statement from Vino on Maxim, however risible such comments may be coming from a man so keen to engage in amateur hematology, are meant to be presented in the conditional tense. In this case, I take the ‘could’ to be definite, as in “He could not have eaten any more cake”.

    • Fair point. Also on the linguistic pedantry, “Maxim’s innocent for now”, isn’t right. He is to be *treated as if* he was innocent as he’s not been proved guilty. Whether he’s *actually* innocent depends on whether or not he took the EPO, which only he knows.

  5. Only makes sense to play for time if the benefits of riding Almaty and Beijing are greater than looking ridiculous to the rest of the world for a prolonged period. Which doesn’t seem right, better to bite the bullet and aim for a clean start next year.

    • The team has had political pressure in Kazakhstan, politicians questioning all the money going out. This is a chance to see the show on the road at home and the absence in Almaty would be too obvious. Missing the first race next year could just be deferring problems but it does mean starting on the back foot, when everyone gathers in Adelaide they’ll be a missing team.

      Either way this turns the case of two brothers into a team story.

        • Unfortunately the options for a person who is confronted with the “to dope or not to dope” question is limited:
          A) Not take dope, perform at a lower level, get paycut or lower level team, then not get a contract at all eventually (my guess like Ben Day)

          B) Juice a little, perform a little better than your natural level, skate by at the bottom of a top level team for the rest of career with a small chance of getting caught(my guess like Popovych)

          C) Go all in, perform like a demigod, get a fat paycheck for atleast a year, probably longer, get busted, retire with a lakehouse (like Ricco)

          Awfully hard to pick A over B and C when you spent your whole life getting to the point that you are in now.

          • Garuda, that is one of the best comments on the subject I have read. Chapeau.

            These guys have spent their entire lives getting to this level. Fans like us, sitting on the sidelines, largely condemn the riders but it is pretty understandable they make these decisions thusly. Most of us, in their place, would make the same decisions. We flatter ourselves in professing the opposite.

  6. If Astana muddle through the immediate mess and then opt to miss the TDU in accordance with the MPCC rules, do they not have to pay a fine to the UCI for being a no-show at a WT race? And is that not a fine for each day they don’t appear? I read that on here once I think…

  7. ASO did everything to prevent Vinokourov riding the Tour even if he had no connection with OP. Everyone knows he was not working with Fuentes (because he was working with…). That’s where Astana started in the first place: that is, not building something from the ashes of a doping scandal, but trying to negotiate against an arbitrary use of antidoping policies.
    If people defend antidoping because “you must stick to the rules”, it’s a non sense to manage it wild-wild-West-wise.
    At least, because you won’t just end up wiping out the dopers: instead, you’ll find yourself with a power system in place, with strong protected dopers. Yeah, many people will be happy because their sporting heroes will be sold as absolutely clean athletes (they won’t ever, ever, ever test positive), whereas those who look like the villains of the movie will be promptly identified as dopers, too (BOOOO!): they may even be required to wear beards to make things more evident, à la American Flyers (be careful, Wiggo, Geschke and Paolini…).
    Caruso’s story is revealing. The Italian prosecutor was obsessed with him even if he had no facts (the CAS won’t acquit you so easily), and used any means to pick on him, hoping to get some sort of confession if the process hurt enough. It was really shameful.
    Ex post, the probability that Caruso has been doping is more or less the same of any rider in the peloton. If anything, a little less, since his situation was investigated deep and long without result, which usually doesn’t happen with any rider; but this doesn’t mean much, maybe he was just careful. But again, if he was so careful, he probably wasn’t on the worst kind of doping, the institutionally protected doping.
    Nevertheless, his name comes out every time the subject is doping.

    • Tyler Hamilton says that Vino *was* working with Fuentes.

      In his book he says that he came out of Fuentes’ office after depositing blood, only to see Vino sitting in a cafe opposite waiting his turn to go in.

      • Maybe, maybe… Maybe Hamilton saw Vinokourov in a café.

        But generally when you worked with one “F”, you didn’t go along well with the other one. See the comments about Ullrich, the athlete who “Dr. Maserati” dreamt to train but never could because of this sort of situations.
        The relations between Sainz and Fuentes weren’t so obvious, as you can see if you read the transcripts of the phone tappings. There wasn’t a fully organised team doping going on like in Kelme. Lots of riders from Sainz’s team were actually working with Fuentes, and the latter indeed wanted to be paid by Saiz for “team services”, but Sainz argued (talking between them on the phone, not as any kind of public defense) that it was a personal choice of each rider.
        Besides, Vinokourov has never been seen favourably by cycling institutions, they tried everything to have him out, and nothing ever emerged about him in OP investigations. Note that, even without formal sanctions, we have information about a lot of riders involved in OP, many of whom were *somehow* prevented to ride in Europe from then on, even without any official accusation.

        I can’t remember well, but I think that in the first place ASO did acknowledge that they couldn’t have Vinokourov implicated, so they kicked out the team because it hadn’t enough eligible riders… only to discover later that some of them (like Caruso) had no relation with OP, so they *were* eligible, in theory.
        All this, and then they had a top ten with stainless figures from Phonak, T-Mobile, CSC (or Ag2R, which I totally fail to consider a perfect example of clean cycling as many do; that year, with Dessel and Moreau).
        What I mean *is not* that if you have proofs about someone doping, you should have him in because you’re tolerating other well-known dopers about whom you don’t have proofs.
        I’m just saying that it’s ludicrous to try desperately to have someone out just because you consider him *a well-known doper* – without having any proof – whereas you’re giving a pass to other teams and riders who are in the very same situation.

        Doping only goes worse, this way, because you reduce it to a matter of image and vox populi. Both easily manipulated.

        • ^^^^ Good points there.

          It is getting to a stage where all the pent-up frustrations we have as fans has manifest itself in a complete lack of tolerance for any kind of due process. Vino is unpopular, so it is ok for ASO to find a way to expel him and Astana from the race – and we are ok with that??? Why not just take votes and ban riders based on that?

          And I am not even going to get into the shades of cultural bias that affects both reporting and perceptions when it comes to Anglophones vs non-Anglophones. Compare the hate that Vino gets to any of the American riders from the Armstrong era, to start with. The amount of aspersions cast on Nibali’s Giro win vs the stringent defense of Froome a scant 2 months later. Etc. etc.

          • “And I am not even going to get into the shades of cultural bias that affects both reporting and perceptions when it comes to Anglophones vs non-Anglophones.”

            Then don’t.

            And if you do, then please name the parallel universe in which you saw the amount of aspersions cast on Nibali’s Giro win (and this year’s TdF win) to be greater than those cast on Froome for his Tdf win. And on Froome during the preceding and subsequent 15-month periods. Because it surely wasn’t this one.

  8. Somewhat perversely, I find the fact that EPO is still turning up reassuring. It leaves me hopeful that the peleton hasn’t moved onto new undetectable methods. Since there will most likely always be those willing to dope, failure to catch anyone would just suggest to me that the doping tests have fallen one step behind again.

    • I am pretty sure, that it is a combination of bio passports and new, more sensitive testing methods that allow to catch today’s EPO dopers. If a specialist sees an unexpected rise of hemoglobine, rush testing is seeked and the probability to catch the doper rises as well.
      BTW, how about Iglinsky’s San Remo win, was it surely fair? Did someone have a thourough look at his passport values in spring 2012?

          • Not insulting at all, I’d just expect that a post which starts with “I am pretty sure” would go on with reliable information. But what I read onward makes me doubt about it. Hence, I wonder…

        • No, I am not a professional cyclist nor am I in any way involved with professional cycling. I am merely a spectator, and as such, I can only form my impressions of the sport based on the information I have access to.

          If you have more of an idea, as you seem to imply, perhaps you could enlighten me?

          • No, Duncan, it wasn’t about you. And, however, I’m more than willing to apologize with denominator if my commentary sounded offensive. I sincerely found funny (not in a bad sense) the way he exposed the subject, but I acknowledge that everyone is trying to contribute in good faith with the sources he’s used to refer to.

        • You did not read the Czech Olympic Committee decision on Kreuziger case, I am pretty sure again 😉 … because it consists of 20 pages in Czech language. But I did the reading and the argumentation of UCI experts concerned the QUICK rise of hemoglobine in K’s blood. That is what makes the experts suspicious and it allowed me to make a guess how they could choose possible suspects for testing today. That’s all. At least I would do so, but I am not in their shoes.

          • The argumentation of the UCI experts in Roman´s case is based on the rising trend of the hemoglobin during the Giro 2012, neither the rate nor the extent of the hemoglobin alteration.

          • 2KBB. Depends what we are talking about. Some irregularities (rising reticulocytes without substantial rise of hemoglobine) e. g. in y. 2011 might be explained by the prescribed use of L-thyroxine, but the rise of hemoglobine during (after day 12) Giro 2012 not. At least according to UCI experts, those of Roman unsurprisingly claim the opposite. Now it is UCI’s move, they have one month from 22. Sept. to bring the case to CAS (or forget it, but I doubt this). I expect CAS to hire a third group of experts and they will decide.

          • You are right, that is the key and only relevant argument of the UCI experts. Hemoglobin value should decrease during the three week race. Roman had normal values of hemoglobin during Giro 2012, but they did slightly increase. Is it possible to consider such increace of the hemoglobin to be the sufficient proof of the doping? It has obviously nothing to do with bio passport system based on statistical probability model.

            Moreover, in the COC decision there is officially stated (see article 6.4) that no single value in Roman´s BP is marked as the atypical bio passport finding, so Roman´s defense is i.a. established on his own bio passport values. A bit ironic, isn´t it? Or diabolical?

        • There certainly was. For my own part I watched it with a pretty strong sense of disbelief in it being a clean performance. And I’m definitely not a fan who believes every rider is on gear these days.

    • There’s a distinction to be made here.

      Apparently, the recent EPO positives are from some test for the *presence* of EPO. In the past this has been a urinalysis test of limited precision. I don’t know if there’s a new, better test, or the riders strategically sanctioned while others detected positives ride, or ….

      The second kind of sanction is a bio-passport anomaly where they detect abnormal changes in blood values. Those are documented differently. See Menchov’s secret, ancient, sanction.

      It seems like the brother’s tests are from the former.

      Doping tests lag behind the leading edge of useful PED’s. I strongly suspect something is going on in 2014 because of the extremely low weight and high-powered riders that did not exist when EPO was used without consequence, or any time before.

  9. Does the ASO have the ability to uninvite Astana to their events as they did with the initial incarnation of the team?

    The fact remains that there is simply not enough collective punishment to bring power to bear on teams to eliminate doping from the inside.

    To make the comparison of Saiz and Vino is apt and highlights that the sport would continue without Vino and would be healthier in the long run as it is without Saiz.

    • Sadly enough, the sport needs Vino because of the money. Two top seats for teams vacant… well, I really don’t know if the sport as such would suffer, but the UCI WT system would. Quite a lot. Inrng provided interesting some reflections about the problems which the lack of WT teams may imply, I think. For sure, in whatever moment they suspected they can go on without him, he’d be out.
      Saiz was backed by the UCI, even against ASO, since 1999 at least. They let him go down when someone else shelled his ship. Very different situations.

      • Like you said, a decade ago. When Pat was threatening to ban the ProTour teams from ASO events if they don’t agree to their terms. ASO was up against a wall there. However, I would submit that it is in UCI’s interest today that ASO uninvite Astana from their events for a few months, and the UCI not force the issue of the previously signed agreement so as not to look like they are supporting the dopey team. UCI can’t stop them from racing right now and it needs others to do that for them.

  10. If this is a case of targeted testing due to a suspicious but not conclusive bio passport it would be great for UCI to declare this. Being able to demonstrate that the tools work, especially in light of the Czech / Kreuziger decision, has to be a good thing for the UCI.

    • Cannot agree more! The bio passport should eliminate athletes with extreme values i.e. serve as the indirect proof of the doping in such cases, mark athletes with uncommon values for targeted testing and discourage from doping generally.

      In that light I just wonder why Kreuziger´s BP testing has been practically stopped in last two years. Another brain teaser for me is why UCI experts needed more than two years to claim officially such bare fact that his hemoglobin values (incidentally all assumed as normal by BP model) during the Giro 2012 did moderately increase.

      • I know it’s not bio passport data that they are being suspended for but if the UCI were able to demonstrate that they used suspicious bio passport to target testing rather than they just happened to catch them through a random program, which just as likely may not have caught them.

      • Sadly, who else is out there with money to pay salary worthy of a guy like Nibali? As much as I hate the fact he’s on this team, he’s gone with a team with the money and organization to help him win. We need a cycling-mad rich Italian guy…bring back Squinzi and Mapei!! But clean this time.

        • Where should he go? To BMC-Phonak? To Omega Pharma with (H)T(C)-Mobile guys and Lefevre ^_^ ? To one of the triad SKY-Movistar-Katusha o_O ? To Rehab-Garmin? To Lampre-Mantova? To Rabobelkin? To TINKOFF?!? To Orica with White and Stephens º~º ?!? I won’t even start to speak of French teams, because my opinion is slightly different from the current vulgata… especially when we’re speaking of Ag2R or Europcar (nor that Madiot himself is any sort of a saint. Or maybe some St.Paul?). That leaves us, more or less, with Giant and Lotto. Not that Sergeant or Aerts are immaculate, nor that Giant hadn’t had its share of shades. But, ok, we won’t use any magnifying glass. Well, neither can pay Nibali’s salary (the same goes for many of the above mentioned, obviously), not even a reduced version in the name of “credibility”.
          What is more, since I think that any cyclist should be worried about his credibility, I dunno if the two can host all the pro peloton. We would have funny races, anyway.

          • Yeah, to Drapac ^_^
            That shows quite well why “should Nibz stay or should he go” makes very little sense.

            Even if I used to appreciate Vino a lot as a rider and as a Facebook character 🙂 , I personally believe that Nibali should go, and this may be the perfect excuse (imagine that Astana is thrown out of WT, he wouldn’t even have to break his contract… it wouldn’t be the first time that antidoping and riders’ market are tightly bound).
            But “credibility” shouldn’t be the motive, it would be ludicrous, looking at the present WT teams landscape (and, I forgot Trek, too, when listing more or less credible teams above).
            Unless you’re speaking of sheer marketing and political games, in that sense no doubt that other teams are better. But that’s called “credibility” only in press releases, no need to do it in a free-thinking blog.

      • Surely, the point here is that Nibali won the tour with the help of doped rider(s)…
        Doesn’t matter if he, personally is clean or not. I would love if the WADA code enabled the stripping of all results for the team during in-competition tests if one rider tests positive.

        It is time that it hurt because currently it does not.

        • Uff… luckily nobody in Astana tested positive during the Tour (till now, at least); hence no doper helped Nibali win the French race! Very well! 😉

          Even if I totally support the idea of relocating part of the burden from riders to teams (stress on *relocating*), I feel that people don’t really understand how aleatory is presently the fact that a doped rider may test positive – or not.
          Otherwise, people maybe understand and assume that it’s quite aleatory (in fact, they assume that there’s a lot of doping going on at Astana, even if in the last three years only the Iglinsky brothers were caught positive): all the same, even if it’s aleatory, they think it’s ok to strike hard. But if in the ultradoping Astana they only had a couple of – presumably connected – cases, with that wild bunch of dopers they got riding, it’s perfectly possible that other teams have various doped riders who aren’t being caught at all. Proportionally speaking, there may be a lot of other dopers, if we are assuming that Astana is practicing so much doping, but all that emerged in years was a couple of minor riders and a very dubious “cold case” (RK).

          Parentesis: we can say “aleatory” if we want to be hopeful and not distrust the system as such, obviously. And hopeful we should be, there’s no reason to lose hope before time, let’s wait at least a couple of years (or maybe eight).
          Back to the point.

          If, for example, BP data can make sense some two or three years later, when you can look at “the whole picture” (that’s what we’ve been told, to justify the delay in RK’s case, even if this idea someway contrasts with what some readers told us they found out to be the problem, according to the Czech papers), then we can expect that many dopers may be just making it through as RK supposedly did for many months. Maybe not every rider will receive a thorough scrutiny as RK or others *targets*.
          What happens with targeting? If you’re innocent, no problem, you’ll be acquitted (the ordinary jurisprudence, which has much more guarantees for the indicted than sport law, shows us that this is not exactly the truth, but let’s go on)… If you’re guilty, so what, why should we complain?
          Well, the problem is that it’s someway unfair to punish the culprit if there is not a consistent criterion relating the diffusion of the crime and the chance of a punishment. Not only is it unfair, even worse, it’s ineffective.
          If the riders see that some of them are being heavily punished, but many more aren’t, and this doesn’t depend on the mere fact of using doping or not, neither on the ‘intensity’ (so to say) of your doping, but just on the more or less arbitrary circumstance of *being targeted*, a fatalistic approach may follow. If most of the dopers are caught, you’ll get that you’d better not to dope to avoid being caught. But if *targeted riders* are caught, you’ll observe that you’d better just… not to be targeted. That is, more or less, where we are now.
          (Note that, in a context of limited resources, to build up a team’s image as *clean* and *pure* may be effective in divert massive targeting, at least at a subtle, underlying level) .
          We can assume, as inrng correctly says, that there’s intelligence at work, here, so to grant that targeted riders are heavy dopers. Maybe yes, or maybe not. Intelligence works in strange ways, informations is not circulating freely. Spy novels may provide a good background to understand how *intelligence* is at work in cycling and especially in the antidoping: cycling history itself is full of inside jobs.

          All in all, it’s not so simply as we would like. Anyway, to exacerbate the punishment doesn’t work very much in reducing crime, what matters is the exhaustiveness of control. From this point of view, targeting riders is not the right direction, nor introducing exaggerated sanctions. That’s just an ancien régime way to spectacularly punish some well-known bad-ass in the public square. Very good to sell, sometimes a show in itself, but not anything near fighting crime, more like satisfying the mob’s appetites.

          • Some interesting points but I would disagree slightly with your last paragraph. The punishments that we have seen in cycling up until now have been punitive rather than exaggerated. From the fines levied in previous decades to the current two year ban, these are intended to reform or deter but obviously, there are riders out there still willing to take the risk.

            It will be interesting to see if the 4 year ban starting next year acts as a bigger detterent. Personally, I think it will, as a 4 year sit out – could easily end a career and will make the risk and reward. a much starker choice.

          • I agree about the fees or the “two weeks out” o_O…
            That was when cycling was a “normal” pro sport, more or less like football or tennis, or so many other business sports.
            “We caught you, ops, something must have gone wrong (or “we just HAD to do it, but, hey, nothing personal, pal!”): here’s your spank and see you soon”.
            Then someone decided to use antidoping as a hammer, hence it had to smash and hurt. Not just for the antidoping fight’s sake, I’m afraid.
            Personally, I disagree with both policies.
            That said, in most case the two years are quite a lot, believe me, and it’s more than enough to *discourage* a rider. Look at most careers of those who got that (especially those who *really* got that). Impressively gifted riders aside, it’s a hard blow. A pro cyclist needs to compete, and each year’s work affects the following one. If your rivals go on riding, competing, and improving, the gap you suffer in a two years stop will be nearly impossible to bridge. And cycling is a “wisdom” sport, the physical curve and the learning curve don’t overlap, so most riders will just have a 4-5 years window (or less) at top level: if the two years fall there, it’s brutal. The only hope you have is to get a late shine when you’ll be less worn out than the rest of your generation (but younger riders will grow “ripe” meanwhile).

            So, the real problem is that it may not be so much of a choice… Not even nowadays.
            We should know something more about the actual situation in the pro peloton to express a valid opinion, but in so many possible scenarios the supposed choice for most athletes would not really be there, but in terms of in and out of pro cycling (a gifted rider may opt for downshifting, but obviously the very talented riders aren’t a majority, and the choice may be even more complicated for them). Top riders aside, the present phase sees an impressive shrinking in teams, which means much more pressure not to lose your job if you don’t perform… or worse, if you refuse your team’s “medical strategy”.
            It’s a wild guess, but I feel that many team may even *wait* you, and support you, if you’re just “not performing”, but the decision not to *cure* yourself, if you’re not performing well in the meantime, won’t be so easily tolerated. Something like “you got a bad year, we know it happens, let’s hope for better (with a reduced salary, if possible)” vs. “you really don’t want to get better and be a pro, do you?! Well, that’s the exit door”.
            I’m not saying I can prove it’s like that, and, quite on the contrary, I’m sure that today it DOESN’T happen in some top teams, but I’ve got like a… feeling… that it *may* be something like that, in some pro teams.

            A punishment like “your career is over” won’t ever work if your career hasn’t got any perspective without doping.
            Not that, even from a more general point of view, there will always be riders “on the edge”, for whom doping may be the difference between being in and being out. The menace of quitting their careers will never be enough.
            And “in” or “out” isn’t limited to “having a contract” or not: it may respond to a vast scope of conditions, depending on the personal balance between sacrifice and reward that each rider considers satisfying. Thus, the number of riders who won’t be inhibited will remain significant.

            Sorry if I have spent so many words on this theme, I want to apologise with inrng and the other readers: I think it’s utterly interesting, but all the same I believe that doping is a “sponge subject”, it sucks away so much energies from *real cycling*… I’m going right back to the Giro presentation on 🙂

  11. *Rooto comes out of lurk mode*

    Aren’t we missing one possibility here? As I understand from InRng’s calendar and analysis above, Astana can stall until this weekend, to be able to race Il Lombardia and the Tour of Almaty – both of which take place on Sunday. What price a sudden change of position on Monday or Tuesday, and ‘voluntary’ suspension of the whole team starting from the Tour of Beijing on Tuesday, and therefore running for 80 days until, what, about the middle of December? Voilà, free to ride Down Under in January, and only 1 WT event missed. I understand that China is a friend of Kazakhstan, but the Tour of Beijing is a dead duck ins’t it?

    I appreciate this is a very cynical view, but where Vino is concerned I’m very cynical.

    • Sorry. Rereading, I see ‘eight days’, not ‘eighty’. Missing the off-season loses a lot of its attraction. I’d better go back to lurking!

    • Good point… but highly cynical for the team. If Astana try to exploit the MPCC code to suit them then they’re turning events relating to the doping cases of two riders into a team matter that could damage their reputation. It’s one thing to be caught, it’s another to react by jumping through loopholes.

  12. Great article, and a good read through the comments too. Nice to see discussion about this rather than sniping and abuse that occurs on other sites. Inrng’s and class above all round!

  13. To complete the days doping related news, and as a further blow to the credibility of the sport Saiz returns to manage an under 23 team Baqe – Campos.

    You could not make it up !

  14. Cycling is full of disappointment’s, over the 25 years I have been following the pro scene. I wonder if the next 25 will be different? Vino, Saiz etc. etc. it’s not looking too good so far.

  15. Vino is angry with Valentin and angry with Maxim

    (putting aside whether he really is angry or it is just PRspeak…)

    He’s angry with Valentin as (your quote INRNG) “a rider who failed to respect the rules and ethics as stipulated in his contract“

    And angry with with Maxim as “this rider could not have understood the basis of our rules and the importance of our ethics“

    Perhaps the subtle difference is that the *contract* rules and ethics say ‘no doping’, wheras the team’s de-facto non-contract rules and ethics are ‘don’t be stupid enough to get caught doping’…?

    • Ah ah ah! Great post 😉
      Indeed, I think that Nibali should leave Astana for credibility’s sake: not for any doping related motive (he would hardly find any suitable ***clean*** team), but because they forced him out kinda of a month to homage Kazakh establishment (i. e. dictatorship) between the Tour and the Worlds, and now are making him skip a Monument like Lombardia to compete in Almaty. That’s really IN-credible.

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