Astana’s Licence Review

Alexandr Vinokourov

The UCI swung into action today following a third positive case involving a rider from Astana, promising special review of the team’s World Tour licence for 2015.

The rider involved is Ilya Davidenok, normally a rider on the subsidiary Astana Continental team but promoted to the main team as a stagiaire. It’s yet more awkward news for the Kazakh team but if it’s embarrassing their licence is probably safe for 2015.

Tests Positive for Stupidity
Davidenok has a non-negative for anabolic steroids. He’s innocent for now as this is the A-sample (sort of innocent… see the UCI’s view below) but if the B-sample comes back positive it’s an astonishing piece of idiocy. He went and won a mountain stage of the Tour de l’Avenir and the UCI’s website says the sample was taken the same day, presumably the standard post-race test for the winner. It’s like walking into a trap marked with a “BEWARE: TRAP” sign.

It’s almost so stupid you wonder if it can be true? Was Davidenok touring around France with his own steroid stash or were they being kept cool by a soigneur during the race? Did he knowingly take it or was it a “recovery” product from a soigneur? This matters because it goes to the culture of the Kazakh U-23 team and beyond. That a rider was using these old-school materials in competition is odd.

MPCC Again
The MPCC rules say a team with a third doping case have to suspend themselves for four weeks, meaning no Tour Down Under. But was Davidenok on the team? He was a stagiaire with the Astana team and rode the Vuelta a Burgos with them. But his non-negative stems from a ride with the Kazakh U-23 team in the Tour de l’Avenir. It’s probable Astana escape again and if they do have to suspend themselves the gap between the Tour Down Under and the next major race means they don’t miss much compared to this happening in March or May.

The Kazakh Connection
Davidenok is a Kazakh as are the Iglinskiys. Sometimes pro cycling is blind to nationality but it matters here: riders central to the team’s mission have been caught. Maxim was a classics winner and Davidenok was supposed to represent the future. Just 22 he won the Tour of Quinghai Lake against senior opposition and then took a tough summit stage finish in the Tour de l’Avenir. Now he’s finished.

UCI Licence Review
Innocent before guilty? Davidenok might be innocent until the B-sample arrives but this hasn’t stopped the UCI from issuing a press release saying Astana will have to appear before the UCI’s Licence Commission and mentioning Davidenok in conjunction with the licence review.

Astana held a valid licence for 2015 so it only had to go through the formal checks to race in the World Tour for 2015. Now the UCI has said it’ll have to appear before the Licence Commission, presumably to give greater assurance over its anti-doping stance.

One, Two, Three Cases?
There are Iglinskiy brothers but we should really treat their cases as one matter. Unless you believe both brothers decided to use EPO at the same time independently of each other then it’s really one case. So while it’s easy to say Astana have had three incidents, it’s more case of three riders but two separate cases in the moral sense.


There’s also the lingering case of Roman Kreuziger. If the UCI appeals this, and the clock is ticking, then Licence Commission is likely to ask about this one too. It might relate to 2012 but – hypothetical – Kreuziger to get convicted then the team would have more explaining to do.

Why Astana Are Safe
We’ve been here before. Late in 2012 the UCI’s Licence Commission decided to rip up Katusha’s World Tour licence, frustrated by a series of positive doping cases among other things:

  • several incidences of doping in the team (two in 2009, one in 2011, one in 2012)
  • hiring seven riders with known doping convictions from the past
  • the presence of staff involved in doping in the past, notably Erik Zabel and Dr Andrei Mikhailov
  • 12 whereabouts mistakes since 2009

Now you might think the UCI would do the same again but lessons were learned from this. The UCI went away with its tail in between its legs after Katusha won back its licence with an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In the hearing Katusha showed that it had moved to implement new “doping prevention” measures for 2013, including contractual matters banning riders from all drugs, even homoeopathic varieties, unless approved by the team doctor. The team undertook other methods including starting a power-profiling program to help detect sudden increases in rider ability, plus it was planning to join the MPCC. In full these measures run to pages of bullet points. The CAS panel agreed that these were substantive and “an important step” to satisfying the UCI’s concerns.

The Panel notes that, in light of the measures adopted by Katusha, the Decision to deny the registration for 2013 appears to be grossly disproportionate
– CAS ruling, paragraph 109, page 37

With Astana we’re likely to get a repeat. The team will show up at the hearing with talk of change, new policies and saying they’ve done everything by the rules. The only way Astana will take a hit is if management is shown to be involved in the Davidenok case. Otherwise the “lone wolf” gambit is deployed and team boss Alexandr Vinokourov will make pledges to work harder, they’ll be spending on new initiatives, more coaching support and so on.

Astana team
All together now?

“Punish Astana”
I hear lots of people saying it’s time to punish Astana. Understandable but hit the whole team and you could just punish riders who had nothing to do with it. There’s no provision in the WADA Code for collective punishments and little legal basis in many jurisdictions too.

Will the mud stick to Nibali?

A voi la linea Enzo
It’s embarrassing for Vincenzo Nibali. Chances are he’s only met Davidenok a couple of times but there will be calls for him to speak out. But what can he say? Launch into a tirade shaming his employers and Kazakhstan? No, he’s in the impossible situation where anything he says is likely to be inconsequential. Saying he’s against doping is the obvious thing but the act of saying this would only link his high profile image to a story that frankly won’t get much traction. You’d probably never heard of Davidenok.

Nibali could slam his fist down on the table and demand the team adopts stronger anti-doping measures but what, when? Besides he doesn’t have much leverage in the team, this is Vinokourov’s project. Those who visited the Tour of Almaty saw just how much the team is Vinokourov’s vehicle and his status back home. Nibali’s only weapon is nuclear: to resign. But he’s on a big contract and losing, say, a million Euros because some imbecile on an U23 feeder squad went DIY with steroids is what you might call a big ask.

Break clause
I think Astana’s licence is safe but if the team get demoted to Pro Conti status some riders including Vincenzo Nibali are likely to have a break clause to allow them to move teams. But why end a lucrative contract? They’d get wildcard invites anyway. A rushed deal to join another team would be unlikely to pay more money as Nibali signed on very good terms and Astana is among the wealthiest of squads. It’s only if the stench is so bad that he has to move teams but for now we’re not there.

Embarrassing for Astana. But costly? Alexandr Vinokourov and others will need to present a strong case to the UCI’s Licence Commission and he might have to visit the CIRC for a long chat if he hasn’t already done so. I suspect we’ll see some crocodile tears and private penitence in front of the Licence Commission and they’ll escape with a formal warning.

Some fans might want it but fundamentally the UCI can’t say “we don’t like Astana” and deny the team a licence. Today’s news centres on a rider who wasn’t even with the pro team when he was caught. To deny the team a licence there would have to be proof the team management were up to no good, either being complicit in the doping or merely allowing a lazy culture where doping is part of the job. Proof.


128 thoughts on “Astana’s Licence Review”

  1. If your interpretation of the potential outcome of this affair proves correct, we have to ask the question, ‘what has changed’. Riders are blamed by management, and the team walks away without being sanctioned.

    For any progress being made, the ability to take meaningful action is still severely limited by the current international structures and attitudes.

  2. I understand there are all sorts of problems with collective punishment. But, I wonder if it should be considered. It could be the lever that fully changes the culture as no one – teams, sponsors, other riders – would be able to look away. Sometimes extreme crises need extreme responses that wouldn’t normally be considered. There is a logic to it in that cycling is – to some extent – a team sport. A doped rider supported Nibali in the TdF. What if Nibali was clean but the 8 others on the team weren’t? In US college sports, violations of NCAA rules often lead to collective punishment in the form of past victories being vacated, future bowl game and tv appearances banned, and the forfeiture of scholarships.

    • If Iglinsky was doping during the Tour, they didn’t catch him. So maybe there were other dopers around who just didn’t have a clumsy little brother.
      That’s why it makes no sense to consider that an athlete has been doping in some race, if he wasn’t caught doping during that race and/or didn’t confess and/or specific doping facts weren’t exposed by some other kind of investigation.
      You could suppose anyone was doping (or not… including Iglisnky o_O)

  3. The whole thing stinks. And who is to say their aren’t other cases waiting to be found out? If I was Nibali I’d be thinking twice about being an Astana rider. This could ruin his reputation.

    • This was a concern from the time he made the move to Astana. He did it for the money and as Mr Ring says money will probably be the reason he stays put.

      • That’s not all that astana has to offer nibali. the support that he got in his first gt with astana was above and beyond what liquigas cannondale ever got him, including when he won the vuelta. At tdf, he had westra, a bonafide cobbles man, on the stage 5, and then flugsang was always around cobbles or mountains stage. Lets face it, he is 2 of 3 since joining astana in gt’s.

  4. Astana is rotten from the top down, this is the reason why past ‘criminals’ like Vinokourov are so bad for the sport – the UCI needs to get these people out of the picture if things are ever going to change.

    • This widens the scope. I too wouldn’t buy a used car from Vino, I might even check twice if he told me the time. But who else do we exclude on this basis? Bjarne Riis? Jonathan Vaughters? Vincent Lavenu? Marc Madiot?

      For now the rules don’t discriminate much based on the past. It’ll be interesting to see if Vino is leant on to go to the CIRC.

      • The point with Vino is that he has shown zero contrition. Very hard to be putting Vaughters in the same basket given all he has said and done. As for Riis, Lavenu and Madiot, I am not so sure.

        Vino is a boil on our sport that needs to be lanced.

        • Go on following what people *show* and enjoy the puppets’ carnival. The funny thing is that a lot of people with a radical stance about doping episodes, criticize doping because of the “cheating”, because they “can’t believe anymore in what they see”… and at the end, they just want a better lie. They just want that the lie is told to them *better*.
          Focusing on episodes, short term or single persons hasn’t helped and won’t help a real antidoping fight.
          But I’m starting to doubt that this is what people want, they just want more characterization for the figures in the show: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and so. This is more similar to Wrestling and its narrative than any rider on EPO.

        • What has Vaughters done? Allow his riders to testify against Armstrong and get almost no penalty? Because other than that he is just saying that times are changing and cool kids don’t dope anymore, which favours the perception that doping it is not that big of a deal now. His team is not transparent or anything like that.

        • You know who also has never been contrite?
          Eddy Merckx. Let’s squeeze that pimple off the books as well.
          Same with Coppi.

          Besides, does the George Hincapie tour of i doped but it wasnt my fault count? He was contrite, and he’d let you read all about it in his new book.

      • I can’t see the point of Vino going to the CIRC. I can’t see anyone actually believing that Vino would or could ever tell the truth, and I don’t think that it would change what is happening now; i.e. – stopping the Kazakhs from changing their doping ways. Especially if they continue to get ‘rewarded’ in the form of a World Tour licence.

      • “On paper” experiment with the feasibility of installing team management with no former activity in actual racing or sporting management, addressing the call for exclusion of past behavior. On first glance it may seem preposterous. Bob Stapleton is an example as an “outsider” without a stained history (a.f.a.i.k) being a successful principal for the High Road teams. Of course, many of the HR diretor sportivo and other sporting staff were previous competitors in professional cycling. Hmmm. Perhaps it is always true. You can’t get a little bit pregnant. 🙁

  5. The UCI can’t say “we don’t like Astana”, but ASO can and did by not inviting them to the 2008 TdF. The Giro that year also initially did not extend an invitation, but then caved at the 11th hour…and Contador won, surprise!

    Is there any sort of conflict nowadays to a race promoter/organizer not inviting them? That would also be a way of giving some fans what they want. Maybe fans need to tell organizers and sponsors this.

    The Astana wikipedia page is depressing reading, like a roll call of arch-dopers.

    • Races have to accept the World Tour 18. If the UCI says yes, that’s it.

      We did have it different in the past, ASO tried to invite its preferred teams but it created a war between the UCI and ASO and eventually Tour boss Patrick Leclerc left. In the past ASO said no to Saeco riding the Tour because of Di Luca’s presence and tried to stop Boonen from participating because of his cocaine bust. Today’s system with the UCI and WADA has created more universal rules.

    • My thoughts exactly KB. This train of thought was a hope I had as well. Sorry to hear that INRNG feels it is no longer plausible.

      We are again in a situation where the sport can not change because it has too few sponsors to support its current structure and financial expectations and is therefore beholden to the very teams who’s actions cause the sport to be an poor destination for companies’ marketing capital. This has been the status-quo since Puerto with no end in sight – our new fearless leader being sadly irrelevant to the whole situation.

      Why not cut the pool of Protour teams down to a presently supportable level and then build from there with teams who police themselves effectively? That Astana stays because ‘Astana must stay’ is simply not acceptable to me as a fan who consumes massive amounts (although continually less) of UCI’s product.

      I am a tempered fan of JV but if he must become a sacrificial lamb then so be it. The sport must be bigger than any one individual – ONE lesson all should take from the era of LA.

  6. So frustrating! Of course INRNG you are correct in everything in write – and you establish the ins-and-outs of this case excellently as ever – but… Aaargh! I wish someone on the circ or whatever commission would just stand up and say ‘Sorry Mr Vino, enough’s enough’. No, everything will be dealt with, it will be forgotten, and no major change will be effected. Humph.

  7. It feels like we only get 50% of the ‘new era’: yes well done for the controls to catch the riders in the first place, but what about the legal stuff to back it up and get rid of the filth? Loopholes – hate them.

    • In all fairness, the UCI are hampered to a certain extent by things outside their control. Whatever punishments etc they mete out, have to stand up under legal challenge to CAS.

      Every sports governing body is in the same position.

  8. Small typo in the last sentence of the “MPCC Again” section – should it be “next major race”?

    Another excellent piece though, keep up the good work

  9. If Astana feel, and it is shown that davidenok wasn’t their responsibility then how do they get away with saying that kruezinger is tinkoffs problem? In my books it’s not two but four positives

    • They both were aware of Astana’s grey reputation before signing their contracts. They chose to risk their reputations and take the extra money. I hope it was worth it.

      • As I showed elsewhere, practically all WT teams have got a grey reputation.

        Unless with “reputation” you mean “being an easy blank for targeting (in multiple senses)”.

        In that sense, some teams may deserve to have a grey reputation but are somehow able to show off a pure white one, while Astana is VERY gray, no doubt.

        • So we are dealing in shades of gray, and lighter is better. Got it. I am going to consider the lighter ones to have a better reputation, if that’s OK.

          • No, there are shades of targeting, and consequent reputation.
            That’s what I said (“Unless with ‘reputation’ you mean … In that sense … “).
            Call it “induced reputation”, if you prefer.
            However, I agree that a cyclist who doesn’t want to risk his reputation should go to a team that is able to grant him *political* cover (I’m not speaking of covering positive tests, to make it clear), and if he doesn’t do that, he’s taking risks.

          • Thanks Sam. By reputation I’ll mean my best guess about whether a team is putting real effort into making sure its riders do not dope. Currently I have the definite impression that the Garmin team (as one example) tries a lot harder at this than Astana. I know I could be wrong, but that’s not the same as saying it is pointless to try to judge the question. I think there are a lot of riders who definitely don’t want to dope, and will not if it is not “necessary” in order to win. Many people believe that has been the case for the last few years. We know we could be due for unpleasant surprises, but I don’t think we are dreaming. If I thought it was impossible to judge these things because of the assumption that everyone is (or could be) lying, I’d go back to ignoring Euro pro racing like I did through the Lance years.

    • Yes. Great photo. Clever operator, Vino.

      So inrng, I like your blog so much I got the cap (this time), and you answer with this entry, which is worth another cap all on it’s own.

  10. As long as a team is not held responsible for the actions of its riders, then the lone wolf defence works. There has to be a strong incentive for team management to be very active in preventing doping. Perhaps the answer is a clause in all professional team licences along the following lines:
    “Any anti-doping violation by any rider when he or she is part of the team in any capacity whether paid or otherwise, is deemed to be a failure by management to prevent it, and is therefore a breach of the team’s licence.
    Breaches of the team’s licence will be punished by fines of the team and/or suspension or revocation of the team’s licence for any period.”
    There could be a defence of “due diligence” – that the management took all appropriate steps to prevent doping – and this would give the team the chance to show what steps it took before the violation to prevent it such as its own anti-doping tests, internal investigations such as the one Team Sky took into Sergio Hennao, ways for team members to alert management to possible dopers, etc etc, and how effective these steps were in flagging up potential problems.
    Any breach hearing, regardless of whether the management was acquitted or not, would automatically mean the team would have to appear before the UCI Licence Commission at the end of the season for a full assessment on whether the management needs to do more and/or steps taken in the aftermath of the breach are being implemented properly.

  11. The big question for me is, why are their sponsors not acting? I understand that Astana/Kazachstan won’t stop their sponsorship, but what about the others? For example, why is Specialized still involved? Don’t they have an anti-doping clause in the contract?

    • The country wants to portray itself as a new eldorado and a modern business partner for the West. It spends a lot on the pro team but more on paying for the Expo and London PR firms.

      I imagine Specialized are getting embarrassed by it. The others, I don’t know. The images of Nibali winning the Tour and Aru in the Vuelta reach so much further than any story about Ilya Davidenok. But like everything there’s a tipping point and for cycling fans at least, tiny subset of humanity that we are, it’s not helping the country’s image as it tries to promote itself as a stable ally.

      • Sinyard at Merida is indifferent to doping. The controversy attracts attention and maybe Merida’s American brand gets a little extra exposure. Anything goes as long as the brand is not harmed. (see Nike and USA Track and Field)

      • Bike companies seem to be willing to roll the dice with sponsorship. They get the upside with the wins and little down side when riders get caught. When the teams win you get the pull page ads with the lovely photos. Riders got caught doping, some statement “Oh we’re shocked just like all cycling fans”.
        Sponsors know whats happening in the background and if they acted on their knowledge they would only be sponsoring cadet teams. But than they won’t get VIP access to team cars for a fun cycling vacation.

    • It would be a little awkward for Specialized to try to distance itself from bike racing…but true that they don’t need to give money to Astana or Tinkoff, yet they choose to do so. They are quite ruthless in pursuing sales– see the eyesore neon bikes they put under all their sponsored Olympians in 2012– and have good reason to think the risk of association with dopers is worthwhile. You’d like to see them bring pressure on their sponsored teams to ride clean, but to terminate sponsorship would probably not benefit the sport.

      • Pulling out from Astana should not be seen as ‘distancing itself from bike racing’.

        Making sure the winner of the biggest races is always riding your product is an obvious, albeit expensive, marketing decision. However, with today’s state of affairs it also leads to the probability the team sitting on your bike is loaded.

        There are plenty of of teams who would love the investment from Specialized, I am sure. However, their ‘win at all cost’ strategy is simply an enabling factor to land us where we are today.

        I have yet to hear a policy from Specialized stating, ‘if a rider on one of our bikes test positive we will pull support from that team’ but if they did, I bet it would be an excellent support for self policing and change the image they have as the big company that goes out of its way to act like the big company.

        • I used the “distancing itself from bike racing” phrasing because I think that may be the only effective way a sponsor can affect the sport by using its potential sponsorship as leverage. Rabobank took this approach, and although I am not sure it was effective there can be little doubt about the “sincerity” of its intentions. I would like to think Specialized has a financial incentive not to associate with dopers, but we know for sure that it has been very profitable for them to run the risk, and any market backlash is an acceptable cost of doing business. Nike has proved this concept all but conclusively, it would seem. I don’t look to a company with such a conflict of interests for leadership in anti-doping…we have the UCI for that.

    • a look at the way Nike have operated over the years is a clear indication that their athletes have to misbehave in a pretty serious way before they become ‘uneconomical’. I’m guessing that for Specialized, having their bike win the Tour plus a lot of other stuff outweighs a few minor inconveniences in the minds of their accountants/marketing folk…

    • Correct if I am wrong, but Specialized sponsors some big riders paying a share of theirs salaries and supplies bike for their teams as a consequence, yet there’s some amount of cash for their teams beyond of bikes. As far as I know Specialized sponsors Contador, Nibali, Tony Martin and Cavendish.

      On the past Contador falls for clenbuterol case and that was not a motive for ceasing their agreement.

      With in mind, I believe Spec will be silent about Astana’s scandals.

    • The fact that a defense was once used improperly doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t make sense in any possible circumstance from then on.
      Different substances, to start with, with different effects and different detection patterns.

  12. Thanks for the expose,
    Would be helpful for a bit of context with your 4 bullet point examples of bad behavior!
    i.e. what might be the average team rate as a contrast?

    Why aren’t sponsors not more apt to cancel there relationships? Specialized must not have learned the lesson of lost sales in the US which followed the LA affair.
    I know that when I go into a cyclery I always mention my displeasure in the posters showing Nibali on his Specialized ride. We who are outraged can register our concern send a email to Specialized HQ.
    Speak with you euros, lots of fine non-Specialized products to ride.

    • The bullet points are extracted from the CAS document on the Katusha case. I can’t link to it as they took it down after the original PDF have several typos and they never published the correction again. But it doesn’t include base case for other teams so comparisons are hard to make.

        • Indeed. Nibali has not been implicated yet, and has surely been scrutinized closely. Even if he is presumed innocent this situation is ugly enough; if he were shown to be doping with Astana, it could be back to square one for cycling’s anti-doping efforts (and exit Foley as a fan).

          • In this case its only about the bike sponsor, I have admiration for Nibali, I only question the allegiance and association with a team which seems to be complicit in a winning at all costs , and is supplied with Specialized products. I can’t change Astana management or UCI for that matter. I can perhaps put pressure on a corporation?

            I don’t expect the CEO of specialized to make cycling clean. But I would like him/her to know that I as a consumer have a choice and would like them to make an effort to not by default be injuring the sport that I choose to hold dear.

      • Ah, you won’t find those at a bike shop in the U.S. or any other Anglophone country.

        Look, we as fans who spend too much (just ask our significant others) on the sport have the ability to change it. If we express ourselves with our money by letting these companies know that doped riders on their bikes will not be tolerated then we, as fans, begin to become part of the solution.

        Not to open a civil war here but my next bike will not be a Trek or a Specialized. Giant or Cervelo -more likely.

        • You mean MENCHOV’s GIANT?! Rabo’s team doping Giant? Or the legendary T-Mobile Giant?
          If you’re going to say that “Giant moved on”, whatever may it mean, well, Trek apparently moved on, too (I doubt about Trek present cleanliness just as about Giant-Shimano’s, but that’s absolutely personal, no specific reason besides the sensation of “borderline” environments, see Kittel’s blood story and so on, especially their past when they were Skil-Shimano).
          What is more, to think that a BIKE sponsor didn’t know what was happening at Rabo or T-Mobile is quite ludicrous (it always is, but when the sponsor is from within cycling world their surprised face and, if anything, hurried escape, is even more striking).
          And Cervélo… I won’t discuss the whole Garmin contrition matter (clockwork contrition, look at Hesjedal o_O ), but, hey, they were with RIIS! And went away because they were outbid by Specialized, not for any ethical reason. Didn’t they know who is Riis?
          That said, buy whatever you like, but you should know that this kind of “antidoping feelings” is a sheer consequence of marketing.

          • Fair points, however I am speaking to the recent past (3-4 years) as it relates to how companies handle their sponsorship, and yes, how they make me ‘feel’ – In a word: marketing. That is what a sponsorship is.

            Cervelo started their own team after they realized the status quo was unacceptable and the postings of its co-founder leads me to believe their hearts are in the right place.

            Giant has been involved in no doping scandals. The reference to Kittel is not a very strong case and has been adequately explained for me.

            Specialized, despite a slick, well funded advertising and PR dept., have been unable to gloss over the fact that they are basically run by jerks who want their bikes on the top step at any price.

            Trek has some atoning to do after the events of the past 15 years. They haven’t.

            We can all see it how we want, you are right. But sending the message to these sponsors and team that these issues matter to their customer base may do some good.

  13. Astana is supposed to have an internal testing program with a WADA accredited lab near Turin. How did they miss two EPO positives and a steroids positive. If the lab is kosher, shouldn’t Astana have challenged the findings? Otherwise, shouldn’t WADA review the accreditation for the lab?

    • You’re not glowing all the time.
      The Iglinsky bros were both on general testing programs (BP included), but they just got caught once.
      Was it the only time they were doping?
      Maxim’s blood was probably retested after Valentin’s positive. Apparently, he had gone through.

  14. UCI should now sit down all potentially interested ProConti teams and offer them 2 WorldTour 1year licenses at “as close as possible to WorldTeam obligations” terms. I bet teams like Bora, MTN or Colombia would consider the move. Then dump Astana and bring WT teams count to statutory in one go. WT teams being below average budget should be given some financial refunds or other benefits.

    It would also now shake the transfer market!

  15. I couldn’t help but notice on 53×12 in July how specific Dr. Ferrari’s knowledge of Nibali seemed to be. First talking about “a more prudent rider” in the Dauphine then the amount of data he had on Nibali’s performances in the tour.

    Maybe he fits in on a team like Astana.

  16. Just saw the third doping rider headline after being away. I didn’t have time to read the grubby details etc. So I just conclude that Astana are dirty and nothing seems to have changed. That’s how your average man in the street will view cycling too. Sad.

  17. I remember, i think from the cycling podcast, that they spoke to the PR man behind Astana. He is an American and obivously saw the need to address some of the questions that were being posed about Vino’s past during the TDF (highlighted i think by the lack of questions about doping to Nibali, where as Froome was grilled every press conference the year before)

    Can’t remember the fellow’s name, but he clearly has his work cut out for him. He summed it up quite well. In Kazakhstan and similar nations, they do not see doping as such a big deal (capital offense for a lot of countries now.) If you get caught and serve your ban, then you have done your time and that is the end of the matter.

    I guess what this provides is an environment that allows young riders to think it is more of an option. As a 19 year old, take a 2 year ban and be back by 21. Vino got caught and came back to win Olympic medals and remains a national hero. Hardly a good example for a young rider.

    It is also the mentioned stupidity of using traceable drugs during competition that the sport knows only too well about. At what point does a young rider not think that winning a mountain stage after a dose of steroids is not going to mean a long vacation? You are either too stupid, or simply didn’t have the right information given to you about consequences (both don’t give you the feeling that this is a sophisticated doping programme)

  18. Vino must keep a little tin box labeled “STUPID” in the back pocket of his jeans (like a Skoal snuff box). It seems to be bottomless, so to speak. Does ANYONE believe ANYTHING he says?

  19. On the subject of collective responsibility – don’t all members of olympic/world champs athletics and swimming relay teams get stripped of their medals if one member of the team is busted for doping?

    • Yes, and in cycling it can apply to formal team events like the pursuit or a team time trial. But not ordinary road racing. Plus we’re talking the whole team being denied work, from mechanics to neo-pros etc.

      • INRNG, I think we understand that. I also think the fan base is prepared to accept that eventuality. Further, that is the whole point. As it stands there is basically zero accountability other than to the individual rider, sojourner, manger, etc. Who was it from Lotto that got busted with enough EPO for the medical need of all of Belgium? And NOTHING happens to the team? Really? No kidding the problem continues.

  20. I thought Lieuwe Westra’s comments on Maxim Iglinsky were pretty interesting regarding possible segregation within the team for training and programmes:

    ” Maxim is a great rider. He once won Liège – Bastogne – Liège and was this year in the team where we helped Nibali to the Tour victory. However, he surprised me in France. All season I had seen nothing else behind his name in results other than Did Not Finish [Iglinskiy dropped out of the Tour of Oman, Pais Vasco, Milan-Sanremo and the Tour de Suisse], but in the Tour he was suddenly making us hurt. He was not with the other eight team members in the preparatory training camps. .”

    Fuller article linked:

  21. Is a lag that long between the sample taken and sample analysed/anounced unusual for this type of ped?
    Is it convinent timing for the team, given that it comes after tour of Almaty?

    • It is unusually long, he was racing at the Tour of Almaty 10 days ago so presumably there was no indication of this by then either. He also did the Worlds and there’s a small provision that the UCI can exclude anyone linked to a doping scandal from the race (basically protecting its own event) so if it knew about Davidenok in late September he’d have been out too.

  22. The stupid are cock sure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Someone wise said it with slightly more accuracy then I, but a great line it is.

  23. To put this into perspective, imagine for a moment that this was last year and Chris Froome & Sky have just won the TdF. Two of his teammates then test positive. Then another, younger team member tests positive a few weeks later. The internet would break. It wouldn’t just be about banning a team, it would be about the end of the team and about the end of believable professional road race cycling.
    That is how bad this is. Once again, a TdF victor has very serious questions to answer – and as we all know cycling is a team sport so if members of that team cheated, then the victor cheated.

    • Interesting view Nempnett – it raises an interesting consideration. What has Vino lost through this? If he has backers who care nothing of doping taking place and secondary riders subsequently getting busted as long as the team wins the TdF, then he wins. As INRNG has pointed out, the only sanction is not really a sanction from the UCI (a promise to do better).

      Going forward, is there anything stopping this situation from repeating itself on other teams? It would appear as though Vino has formed a team with many riders whose careers are 100% expendable in his eyes and will allow or (gasp) encourage doping. For many teams that have image and reputation to worry about this would be unacceptable but what about a Tinkoff, or an OQS?

      There must be a form of collective punishment despite the cries of unfairness.

      • There must be a form of collective punishment despite the cries of unfairness.

        It’s called sports administration reform. The way the system works now, there is little transparency.

        This included anti-doping. We have very little facts, yet there is a wealth of biological test data to use to verify the integrity of the sport. Nothing was made of the 90+ urinalysis positives from 2013 explained away by the UCI as TUE’s. We have no data from the biological passport system and the UCI’s CADF is vanishing from the Internet.

      • (@ benDE) Doping is cheating and that’s unfair.
        So let’s be unfair punishing doping.
        That will work, yeah.
        Look, punishment doesn’t work so much, but unfairness is even worst. It produces self-justification and weakens the culture of respect towards: a) people; b) rules, which is eventually one of the few serious “medications” to limit doping. It creates resentment against the system and its rules, encouraging people to break them. Haven’t you ever been… in a classroom? 😛
        You may say that you don’t care about honesty and rules and so, your priority is just to stop the riders ruining their health. If that is the case, I fail to see how ruining various innocent riders’ (and other workers’) careers and lifes can be seen as a productive move. Their health won’t probably get better, either.
        All that said, a better sharing of responsabilities between athletes, sport directors, team and sponsors should be seen as urgent. I support that. Though, one of the reasons (whilst not the main one, probably) because of which it hasn’t been done is that it ain’t easy,

        • I understand if the unfairness of collective punishment causes problems for you but it already happens. When RABO pulled out: Collective punishment. When Belkin pulls out: Collective punishment. When a doped rider takes a race from those who haven’t: Collective punishment.

          Under the current structure there would be pain, yes. However, the goal is to change the current structure, no? With collective punishment this risk to individuals on teams would change cuture.

          • There’s a huge difference between “punishment” and “consequences”. The example you name are “consequences” of a given situation, not a punishment. That is, there’s no legal obligation implying that an institution will enforce a penalty, it’s a matter of choice and interaction between different subjects.

            However, if something that’s very wrong happens (Belkin pulls out because of marketing problems, unrelated with doping, if they used doping as an excuse – which I don’t recall – it’s just pathetic… even if it wouldn’t be uncommon), it’s not a good reason to give it the force of law.

            I partially agree with your conclusion, but, as it always happens with justice and the likes, the specific ways you do something are a big part of the question, very often “how” you do that is the thin line between a court and a lynch mob. The right way or the wrong one, even if the results may look very similar, an hanging man.

          • @gabriele:
            Oh, absolutely! But the reason we are here discussing this is that the governing body (or the ‘state’ to stay with your lynch mob parallel) is failing to protect fair play. Despite pressure from sponsors, broadcasters, and fans there has been little in the way of enforcement that has led to my peace of mind and the sport continues it slide. Therefore, many are looking for ways to influence the sport and bring pressure to bear from outside even if they are more messy.

          • and the reason it ain’t easy is because, as we see time and time again until we have the comical situation of Astana, there is no incentive for them to do so under the current system! Anyone doping is a lone wolf, is a disgrace to the team, and is out.

            Currently WADA/UCI must ‘prove it’ which is very difficult to do as past cases have shown. If the UCI prescribes collective punishment then teams would only have to suspect it and would be incentivised to take action. (In addition to providing atmospheres where a ‘bread and water’ rider is rewarded)

  24. If we follow the “this is really two cases” logic, then isn’t it likely to be “really one case” if we learn the doping is either team sponsored or team condoned? Not to quibble about rhetoric, but the plausibility that these cases aren’t connected at the team level in some capacity is low, just as two brothers are unlikely to independently DIY EPO themselves. And, as always, thanks for the excellent analysis!

  25. Surely it’s time the leaders (the riders who hold some cards) started protecting their own interests?

    If I was a (clean) team leader I would be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with doping. As such I would get a clause in my contract releasing me at the end of the season if there was a doping violation on my team. Further more I would be inserting clauses stating I was to be compensated for potential loss of earnings at the rate of one additional years pay, even in the last year of contract.

    I can’t see teams being able to refuse easily. An agent stating a rider ‘would have signed for Astana but they wouldn’t agree to the anti doping clause’ doesn’t do much for the PR. Also the financial implications of paying a team leaders salary for a year without them riding for that team should focus minds.

    I think it requires Froome, Conatdor, Nibbles, Quintanta etc to start demanding this as they’re realistically the only ones who can and it would potentially make a real difference in culture (no longer can you drop the rider blaming them with no team consequences.)

  26. The current doping model often seems to involve riders acting more or less independently and working with a privately arranged doctor or consultant. There would be little opportunity or reason for the team involvement to go beyond “condoning.” It is very convenient for teams to claim that riders act independently when they dope, and there may be tortured understanding at Astana of what “condoning” does and does not mean, but it’s apparent that for very practical reasons much of the doping that goes on these days is intended to be unknown to anyone but the rider and the smallest possible group of conspirators. It may look like a manipulation of plausible deniability by the teams, but in fact the secret doping and team ignorance seem to be for real in many/most cases. As far as we know.

    • The “as far as we know” aspect is key, of course. Without a Hamilton/Millar/Kimmage expose of “my years at Astana” much is guesswork. That said, the culture, as noted by others, about what is and isn’t cheating is surely different across teams and I suspect the current doping model as practiced at Astana pushes the limits of “condone.” Maybe not for Nibbles, but a young Kazah coming up thru the ranks surely would need advice about how to arrange a doctor…

    • (@ Foley) Very interesting point. This has always been one of the way doping worked in some teams, and I suspect that today it’s still like that. I wouldn’t dare to say if it has spread comparing with the past, or even if it’s Astana’s case, but the doping universe has always shown interesting difference between team and team, system and system, and it would be reductive not to take this aspect into account. Especially when various WT teams have become (more and more) conglomerates of different sub-groups. However, I’m quite sure that ye ol’ good structured & organised team doping is still out there.

    • This takes me back to the saga of White-Moral-Lowe-Vaughters. I have no idea his true motivations but JV fires White for recommending Trent Lowe go to Moral in Salamanca after Lowe’s performance is suffering. Some would call it PR window-dressing but this action is the sort which is needed to send strong messages within teams.

      And then you look what happens to White – he gets hired by OGE and is forced to take a time-out (3 monsths?) as his past runs foul of its ‘strict’ anti-doping policy. See the difference?

      • JV knew very well White, don’t worry, the Moral story was just an excuse to have him out. This is how antidoping works too often, you go on working with people whom you know, or suspect, could be up to something *questionable*, but it’s ok for you because you get results (a team and a sport director) or money (the UCI and teams) or whatever (a team and riders)… When you need to put pressure on someone or even to have him out, some doping-related problem comes out. How opportune. It’s even more convenient to work with people with this kind of problem because it puts them in a weak position in any kind of power negotiation.

  27. Cycling is such a good case study for marketing.

    Clever marketing by garmin and everyone (most western countries) see them as this pure team where a team like astana, which has little market reach in the US and Europe are perceived as the bad guys.

    Then how quickly we associate the bike brands in conjunction with the teams. Specilized is seen in a negative light because astana and tinkoff ride them.

    So to sell more bikes cycling companies should invest money into marketing of teams to make them appear “clean and transparent” to the consumer.

    • I’m not sure what cycling is like but in my prior experience, the people discussing a subject (including its darker/less fun aspects) at length on the internet, and the people who are considered the most lucrative potential customers by companies, are not always the same group of people.

      It would depend on who Specialized etc are targeting. Is it the die-hard cycling fans, or the people who watch the TdF and go ‘WOW THAT’S COOL’ and have a spare eight hundred dollars or so handy, or another group entirely? I don’t actually know the answer to this one haha but it’s probably not hard to find out–that would go a long way to explaining their motivations

      Moreover, if they had a specifically ‘clean and transparent’ slant to their sponsorships, and a team they were sponsoring wound up in this situation, it could hurt them far more than ambivalence/plausible dependability would. Which would really suck if you were a smaller manufacturer trying to get your foot in the door and you only find out a few years later you’ve been sponsoring the next Vino or whoever.

      Mind you, I think a ‘clean and transparent’ platform would work if you had a rider who took extra pains to prove they are clean and did extremely well in the sport, long enough to get into the public consciousness, AND did so in a way that somehow convinced everyone it’s not Armstrong all over again. But even if Specialized did this and started by cancelling all their contracts with seedier teams and got through the resulting legal snowstorm intact, people who would find such a platform from them appealing would be IMMEDIATELY cynical because they’re educated on this stuff (AND are probably still mad about the Roubaix thing!)

      It’s easier and safer to market to base-human-desire stuff like ‘Ride the same kind of bike as Tour de France winners and feel like a supreme badass’ XD

  28. Sad to say, but in some countries (say, Italy) the problem of doping between high level amateurs ranks which I was commenting about with Sam as reached such a proportion that I’m not very sure that a bike brand being associated with doping problems would suffer in market terms. Typically, those who spend big money on doping (EPO or HGH aren’t so cheap) are ready to buy bicycles who may be worth five times the “normal” road bike. And there are literally hundredes of people like that.

    Besides, as I think channel_zero was hinting at above, doping controversy may even produce general & generic exposure of the brand, which can be considered a positive (^___^) effect.
    I’m very sorry I won’t be able to find the data, but like a couple of years ago a research was published in Italy showing how some brands (not bicycles, in that case) actually benefitted of doping scandals in cycling.
    Their names became known among a lot of people because they were appearing in the daily news, and most of the spectators weren’t really interested in cycling or doping, thus weren’t aware of the specific contents of the news or didn’t care, anyway, and ultimately weren’t able to remember why the brand made news.
    But the brand started to “sound” more or less familiar… and that was good for the brand itself!

    • Sounds about right to me

      I tried posting this yesterday but the site was playing up (probably a good thing, my original comment was even more wordy)–in theory, if you were a bike manufacturer and you sponsored a team you are 99.99% certain is clean, and targeted your/the team’s marketing toward a less immediately-suspicious audience, you might get good results. For instance, if you targeted casual American cycling fans who were put off when Armstrong etc got pinged, who could be convinced there are now ‘good guys’ to cheer on. Then a team and its cycling manufacture sponsors could be quite successful if the riders do well and don’t wind up indicted!

      But urgh, even in the best case scenario where no team riders go rogue with steroids or whatever, in the current culture, I see that resulting in bizarre elitism nonsense with the team being seen as full of Pollyannas and their fans as naive… like, can you imagine being an ordinary person interested in getting into cycling, who buys Theoretical Bike Brand X because you heard it’s good and that it is supporting Totally Clean Team Y which is a good thing right? then getting sneered at by various old-school peeps in lycra every time you go for a ride or mention your bike online? Yuck! There’s not much that turns a consumer off buying a product than the perception that their peers would think they’re ‘uncool’ for buying it. So I don’t see any sponsor angling their teams as “clean and transparent” in airquotes, because in terms of crass capitalism, there’s so many potholes to avoid, they’d have to be actually /dedicated/ to the cause to risk them.

      I want to clarify my comments are specifically about hypothetical (and very cynical) marketing. If Specialized wants to tell Vino to clean up the team or find somewhere else to buy their bikes, I’d be all about that. Boycotting is a perfectly valid option for fans, too.

  29. I have Never thought, I wont buy that brand because Vino is (was) a cheating turd. I’m not buying that frame because that cheat Rebellin used to ride it. That kind of logic just seems complete nonsense to me.

    • Erm it’s more like ‘This brand is getting publicity (=money) from sponsoring people who do things I dislike, so I don’t want to give them MY money’

      I see it in all sorts of contexts quite often. Such boycotts achieving a larger-scale change in the long run is a bit less common, but hey

    • Oh my friend, but logic has hardly any relation to marketing, let alone advertising. Brand presence, product recollections, placement, availability have a lot more to do with selling than a positive association. Barry bonds, a renowned asshole in baseball circles, was still contributing positively to his team’s popularity during his trial.
      To a point. trek is still paying their dues for being the bike that lance rode all those years.

      • Oh Anonymous, only cheaters might associate an advantage in riding a bike that another cheater would ride. While else would they feel they need an advantage which is rally not there?

        I agree with Garuda and GB Specialized is only a bike, Gabriele as well expressed it well.

  30. Wow, almost 100 comments, this is a popular subject!
    I am curious to know more about the four members of the license commission. I can find their names on the UCI website and some of them are on Linkedin, but I would like to know how they got to be on the commission in the first place and what kind of men they are. Are they McQuaid/Verbruggen era dinosaurs or independent thinkers? Can you enlighten us INRNG?

  31. “The team undertook other methods including starting a power-profiling program to help detect sudden increases in rider ability, plus it was planning to join the MPCC. ”

    ive often wondered how plausible it is for a team member to be a lone wolf in there PED mis-conducts . the general impression we are given is the pro-team sports science is so exhaustive so complete that all exceptions would be obvious .

  32. This is just another example of why the sport needs to rid itself of the “old guard”. It’s really surprised me that the clean out has not occurred. In any decent company where this type of deception/fraud occurred all associated individuals would be removed. Whilst cycling is the greatest sport in the world, it has a lot to learn about about how to manage itself.

  33. Speculation: It’s possible that the Davidenok sample from Avenir was just collected and stored. As inrng said, Davidenok was riding the worlds and tour of Almaty, and if uci would knew something by then, he wouldn’t. When the Iglinskys happened, the uci ordered all of the Astana related samples to be analysed or analysed again with “all the works” i.e. the expensive tests too. And Davidenok came up .

  34. Dont be too surprised at Davidenok, their are some prize fools who dope (some might say that’s all of them):

    Bruce (not his real name) walked out on a doping test in the late eighties (automatic 3 month suspension in those days) saying “I have to catch my plane” when in fact he wanted to avoid getting busted for the steroids he’d been taking (9 months suspension). The following week he gets a call from someone senior in the Federation who says to him “Bruce, everyone thinks you skipped out because you’re on steroids, if you like I’ll send a testing team around to your house who can take a sample and clear your name. Or just say no. This conversation will never have happened and you can wait out your 3 months.”
    Bruce said yes (told you he wasn’t bright).
    The testing team came around, and Bruce tested positive for steroids. The case was a new one for the books : Can you be suspended for doping whilst you’re already suspended?
    The answer was ‘yes’, and Bruce had another 9 months added to enjoy a full 12 months holiday.

  35. Maybe someone’s already mentioned, but I’m just noticing the gold treatment on the retiree’s helmet (in the first photo). Gimmeabreak!

  36. quote :
    The MPCC rules say a team with a third doping case have to suspend themselves for four weeks, meaning no Tour Down Under

    How’s that work then ?
    – TDU is not 4 weeks away, it’s Jan 2015, 3 months away…

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