Astana’s Hard Sell

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For cycling fans Kazakhstan has meant the sky blue jerseys of the Astana cycling team. Now events in Kazakhstan and their repression are front page news and instead of blue jerseys, images of burning buildings and troops on the streets come to mind. The President has instructed security forces to “use lethal force without warning” against protestors and those he has labelled “bandits”. The regime behind these measures is the same one behind the pro cycling team.

Astana have never been an easy team to like. If sport has heroes perhaps it needs villains too? Born out of the collapse of the Liberty Seguros team following the Operation Puerto blood doping scandal, the Astana team was launched in 2007. That same year team founder Alexander Vinokourov was rumbled for blood doping  in Tour de France and the whole team had to leave the race. Yet this wasn’t the ruinous moment it could have been for other teams.

Now the Astana team is in its 17th season. It feels like part of the World Tour furniture yet it’s hard to work out what the team is for. If it was out to get good publicity for the country then that’s questionable given all their doping scandals over the years; perhaps this was just noted by insider cycling fans while positive images of riders winning races went global? If it’s to bring on domestic talent, do they need a full world tour for this when they could do what, say, Nippo does with Japanese riders and acts as a co-sponsor to help place their riders?

At one point even the UCI tried to block the team. But so far, so internal to the team and its management. We need to park this aspect and look beyond because all along they’ve been backed by an authoritarian regime in what looks a lot like a one party state. You could try to ignore this part but it’s got a lot more difficult this week. Especially because the team’s backers are the Kazakh State, it’s not funded by some hobbyist living out a pro cycling fantasy out of their own wealth.

Which brings us to events in Kazakhstan now. A decision to remove price controls on gas used in people’s vehicles led to protests, perhaps was the final straw for many. But there seem to be longer term factors underneath causing concerns and different protests in different places have different grievances, as well as looting and even claims some of the riots in the capital were agitated by conspirators. It’s all hard to tell given the internet has been switched off in the country for most of the week. Now the fate of a pro cycling team doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to these issues but since this is a pro cycling blog, we’ll explore it and you can go elsewhere for the bigger picture.

In the wake of the protests the President has reportedly sacked his cabinet but don’t expect big change. This has happened with help from others, Russia apparently has sent 75 flights of troops and supplies and others have provided more help meaning the Kazakh government’s got extra, outside assistance to put down protests, perhaps in case the local police are minded to side with protestors. The authoritarian state stays for now, although these things can be brittle.

Who knows what these internal changes might mean for the cycling team? President Tokayev was Nazarbayev’s handpicked successor and any difference in the direction of travel since his appointment is hard to tell, there’s no clue to what any of this means for the team. Remember even during the apparent good times internal issues behind the scenes in the past have led to reports of unpaid wages in 2018 and again in 2020.

If the Tokayev rule stays this doesn’t mean the team’s future is safe. A pro cycling outfit is low priority for the President compared to burning buildings and suppressing popular uprisings but that’s the point, it’s not a necessity. If money is tight then even the rulers might ask why they’re paying the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Angel Lopez lots of Euros to dance on the pedals when locals want more of the spoils.

All those issues are internal to the Kazakh regime. But there are outside factors. Even if the funding is still guaranteed one thing to watch here is the exchange rate. As the screengrab from Bloomberg above shows, not long ago you needed about 400 Tenge to buy one Euro, now the rate is around 500. That means funding the Astana team has got 25% more expensive of late. And if the rate slips more in the wake of any turmoil then the team’s wage bill gets pricier still. The US and EU among others could impose sanctions which might have an impact on moving money as well.

More specifically for the team is the question for its co-sponsors: are their values shared with the team’s backers? Especially if the repression continues or worsens. But the team’s subsidiary sponsors like Wilier and Giordana are just that, the team isn’t reliant on them. Last year the team had a co-sponsor in the Canadian horticultural company Premier Tech. The firm might have felt like it got flicked during last summer’s power struggle, now management must be relieved to have got out but it’s had the effect of meaning the team is now dependent on funding from Almaty.

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Some say sport and politics don’t mix. This is true for Kazakh tennis players preparing for the Australian open, or Kazakh ski jumpers in the World Cup who are largely doing their thing and probably don’t want to be asked about events back home as there’s no safe answer. The difference for the Astana pro cycling team is that it exists because of the government and it exists for the government. Don’t take my word for it, the squad has been renamed Astana-Qazaqstan and the team says “Qazaqstan is a kind of new brand of the state on the international stage”. The team is a vehicle to promote the state’s image. Swapping Qazaqstan for Kazakhstan might be the image the government wanted but events now spell something more serious and the team should face questions about what, and who, it is riding for.

69 thoughts on “Astana’s Hard Sell”

  1. “ Now the fate of a pro cycling team doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to these issues but since this is a pro cycling blog, we’ll explore it and you can go elsewhere for the bigger picture.” One perfectly crafted line that sums up why we love this blog. Thank you again for you writings.

  2. Does sportswashing even work? Maybe to the wider population but I always feel it just brings increased attention on human rights abuses from the media and fans of whatever sport.

    It doesn’t seem to change government to government relations, which are largely driven by economics and the associated political power anyway.

    It financially benefits the consultants, PR companies and ex-politicians who end up working for dictatorships, of course…

    • It’s bound to be a two way process, a team/sponsor can’t control all the coverage they get. But it can buy a lot of good PR if it’s done right, there is a soft power aspect to it. But the Astana team here’s never tried to sell the country too much, no annual photoshoots of training camps in the vast countryside etc.

      • Hopefully the “backwash” and media spotlight leads to improved human rights in many of those countries too, although it’s probably a process that will take decades and decades for any significant change, if it happens at all.

  3. Perhaps another factor in the team sponsorship is that the image of a Kazakh national team scoring victories on the world stage is propaganda for internal, domestic audiences.
    This isn’t a multi-party democracy with a free press, it’s an autocracy where power, wealth and control belong to a few and one of the means to retain that control is continual stirring of patriotism, lauding of national heroes, promotion of the nation and the state to its own citizens.
    A cycling team is actually probably a relatively cheap and easy way of doing that, more so than many other sports.
    And there won’t be any mention of drug controversies in the state-controlled press & media, rather it’ll be a celebration of the successes of the national team, national heroes like Vino and the foreign heroes like Nibali who are happy to ride for such a great team.

    • I’m sure all the successes over the years have been a big part of it and now having Lutsenko gives them hope as he’s been close to some big wins. But over the years I’ve read pieces in the Kazakh media about the team and it’s not all been glorious propaganda, far from it (you can’t find them right now as sites like are offline).

  4. I wondered if you’d post anything on this. Glad I don’t have to look in my bank account for payments from these guys…who do you complain to if they don’t show up?
    But OTOH, don’t miss a chance to slime on Astana (or other teams) for the sins of their backers, right? Unless they’re British, of course. But look at the bright side – all those in the Anglo-Saxon, “Our guys never cheat” crowd can now hate Gianni Moscon AND his team! A win-win!

      • No argument there, but I still won’t hold my breath waiting for the great British outcry against the sins of the backers of Dave B’s teams. While I’m typing I can also ask Michael B. where I wrote anything related to: “..uniquely British phenomenon for the public to be oblivious to drug issues in sport.”? Don’t I post enough stuff for you guys to attack me without having to make things up?
        Finally, before anyone starts claiming riders on the Astana team endorse the activities of the sponsor/government via the act of wearing the team kit and cashing a paycheck I’d ask if you’d apply the same standard to riders named Thomas, Pidcock, McNulty, Bennett, Wright, Davies, Froome or Woods?

        • “No argument there, but I still won’t hold my breath waiting for the great British outcry against the sins of the backers of Dave B’s teams.”

          Murdoch and Sky are widely despised in Britain, believe me, and for reasons that go way, way beyond cycling.

          • “Murdoch and Sky are widely despised in Britain, believe me, and for reasons that go way, way beyond cycling.” I believe you Michael B. but none of that seemed to bother the fans of the cycling team they bankrolled. I’ve yet to read anything like “Astana have never been an easy team to like. If sport has heroes perhaps it needs villains too?” about the Sky Team… unless of course some a-hole like me wrote it 🙂

          • It’s quite funny that you are guilty of doing what you accuse British people of.
            In your imagination all Brits are rabid Skyneos fans with framed portraits of Brailsford, Wiggins, Froome, Thomas, Murdoch, Ratcliffe and Pidcock above their fireplaces. Maybe even some of the more hardcore ones have a portrait of Luke Rowe too. They are all utterly ignorant of how or where Murdoch and Ratcliffe got their money, and don’t care as long as the team keeps winning.
            Meanwhile back here in reality Nibali could ride for the devil himself and you’d be there to cheer him on. Glass houses.

          • Richard S – point me to the British outrage about the villainy of the sponsors of Dave B’s teams here or anywhere else as I must have missed it.
            Mr. Inrng wrote of Astana: “the team should face questions about what, and who, it is riding for.” but we can’t ask Mr. Froome about riding for a team bankrolled by a rabid supporter of a regime in violation of how many UN Security Council Resolutions or Mr. Thomas about riding for one bankrolled by a plutocrat who financed a right-wing propaganda machine for the USA’s Trump Administration? If we’re calling out devils why stop with Kazakhs?

          • The Guardian? I’ve heard of it. Didn’t they employ that guy who went so hard at BigTex? David Walsh? Or was it the other one, Paul Kimmage? They were great. I even donated to the defense-fund for Kimmage. But when it came to IMHO the next chapter – SKY/Froome it seemed they both strangely went limp. To this day I wonder why?
            So I guess I missed The Guardian’s “extraordinary, unrelenting criticism of Froome/ Sky in their pomp?”
            Post some links to a few of those full-scale attacks if you don’t mind? I remember looking for them during the various SKY/Froome scandals over the years but coming up mostly empty and wondering what happened to those who so doggedly pursued the famous US dope cheat while seeming to lose interest in a UK version.

          • Yes, I remember that – not exactly hard-hitting, dogged, investigative reporting of the type we saw from Walsh and Kimmage is it? I never claimed they failed to cover it or covered it up, just that it seemed pretty wimpy compared to the work on BigTex’ cheating and the result seemed to either be continued “Rah-rah! Just win baby” or a collective “Ho-hum”. It’s tough to understand the difference in treatments when it was the same reporters with the same stated hatred of liars and dope cheats. I’ll grant that Froome wasn’t the bullying a-hole that Tex was/is but neither was Tyler Hamilton.

    • Disclaimer: I’m English… but I don’t think it’s a uniquely British phenomenon for the public to be oblivious to drug issues in sport.

      It’s more a consequence that a niche sport suddenly becomes huge due to domestic success – 95% of people are only vaguely aware and just see champions, just like Armstrong-era US.

      Hardcore cycling fans who read blogs like this are more switched on to the issues whether they’re British, American or any other nationality.

      • couldn’t agree more spicelab, this is like the btl on Cyclingnews! Inring’s piece is well considered and is the only one I ve found anywhere on this subject.

        • Thanks, I wanted to address the issues facing this team here because of the news today, rather than compare the sponsors of other teams as this week nothing’s changed with what we know about Cofidis, Bahrain, Ineos, Israel, UAE, Lotto-Soudal etc, but the terms and image have shifted for Astana: where to remains to be seen.

    • Nice counter attack Larry. Obviously now ‘Il Squallo’ rides for Astana you need to come riding out to defend his honour. Superb.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I wondered why criticism of the Kazakh government had led Larry to attack Skineos, but you’ve reminded me that Nibali has rejoined Astana.

      • Is there a single mention of Mr. Nibali in ANY of my comments here? I used Mr, Moscon as the guy you all love to hate and joked that now that he’s on Astana you can double up, but why not add The Shark to your hate-fest?
        I’m not defending any regimes or riders, rather asking why it’s OK to use the word “villain” for this team and demand it “face questions about what, and who, it is riding for.” while ignoring others who might be just as awful or worse?

        • Please re-read the passage where the Inner Ring used the word “villain(s)”!
          And please re-read the passage where the Inner Ring explains why Astana differs from the teams that are on your list of villains!
          PS I thought the Nibali connection was merely an amusing coincidence.

          • I went back and read Mr. Inrng’s post again. How ’bout you copy and paste “the passage where the Inner Ring explains why Astana differs from the teams that are on your list of villains!” and while you’re at it, clue me in on who is on “my list of villains”?
            It seems plenty of you guys read-into my posts a lot of stuff that’s simply not there to set up your straw-man arguments, but maybe I’m missing something?

          • I never thought you couldn’t comprehend that I used “your list of villains” simply as short for the teams that in your view are just as awful or worse than Astana and which you think the Inner Ring should have included in his list of villains, that is to say which he should also have “demanded” to face questions.
            You are also so superfast to accuse “you guys” of setting up strawman arguments that you don’t realize those strawman arguments all too often exist only in your own hurried and apparently overheated interpretation of what “you guys” actually wrote.

          • “…the teams that in your view are just as awful or worse than Astana and which you think the Inner Ring should have included in his list of villains, that is to say which he should also have “demanded” to face questions.”
            Which are? Other than pointing out SKYNEOS as one I don’t know that I’ve listed any other, so again maybe “you guys” are setting up straw-men.?
            Want a list of “you guys” – Richard S, KevinK, Michael B. and maybe Gelato4Bahamontes and Mr. Inrng himself who created this post, one taking to task a pro cycling team that as far as I know has neither shot nor imprisoned anyone…their “crime” being taking sponsorship money from a (nobody would argue) rather corrupt, authoritarian regime – which so far, IMHO is neither against the UCI rules nor unique.
            As I wrote elsewhere I wonder if we cleanse pro cycling of every sponsor the west deems objectionable (and who decides this?) and keep the , which requires a massive budget, where will the money to keep the sport alive come from? I fear wokeism’s long-term effects on all aspects of free society, not merely pro cycling.

          • I agree Larry – in detail if not spirit.

            Today I woke up and realised that while my membership of a gloriously, spuriously, hypocritically free, criminally capital democracy buys me large slices of individual liberty, only collective justice can bring me redemption for that freedom’s price.

            Meanwhile, I’m chasing €100 notes off a cliff.

  5. Thanks for the article! I wonder if the exchange rate of the Tenge is really an issue for the funding of the team? Astana is based in Italy so the relevant currencies would be the Euro, Dollar and the suisse Francs. I guess that the team funds are provided by a state owned investment agency (like a sovereign wealth fund) backed by the oil income of Kazahstan. Oil contracts are normally denoted in Dollar and sovereign wealth funds invest in general in dollars too in order to provide a natural hedge against the uncertain development of the currency of the home country…

    • Good point, worth noting the team is technically run via a Luxembourg entity, even if they have a lot of Italian connections as well. But the sovereign wealth fund that is the team’s backer is also a big owner of companies and assets in the country like real estate, factories, the airline, the postal service etc so it’s not just converting oil revenues into Euros.

  6. i’ve always been confused by why astana is around. you note above that they don’t do feature photoshoots in the Kazakh country side and don’t seem to do much with domestic talent, even my feeling of the Kazakh citizenry is a lack of interest. their star riders are italian, the bones of the team still appear italian.

    does Vinokourov have strong personal ties to their politburo that were exercised to offset Borat? it’s almost like there were higher ambitions for the team–like back when armstrong rode–that never really materialized and higher ups just shrugged and said “close enough”. maybe the team fell to the back ground and was a sort of forgotten in the financial ledgers? the staying power of the team is impressive, especially so when the katusha team folded after having apparently similar goals with a substantial budget.

    now my first thought on the news of domestic chaos was the astana team and what fuglsang or lopez might be thinking.

  7. Boy am I glad I’m not a rider for that team. Put yourself in the shoes of one of their riders. How proud would you be to sport those colors? I have to wonder, how deep might you be willing to dig to bring home the win for… those thugs? Do you cross the finish line and point to the name Astana on your jersey?

    Hard to see the violence not having an impact on the morale of the racers, if I’m being honest.

    Prayers for the people having to live through this as their daily reality.

    • I’ll take the risk and I’m hereby conjecturing that people in Khazakhstan right now are living through a daily reality which doesn’t even come close to the harshness people went through in Yemen (or Gaza) for nearly a decade – well, or several (I guess it could be proven with facts & figures, but I’m not going to invest the necessary time).
      Surely, we’ve seen the huge impact it has had on the moral of the racers in these recent seasons…

      As a side note, I recall that Froome, coincidentally then being hired by Israel Shut Up Nation, changed the head photo of one of his social network which pictured his Zoncolan attack because Palestine flags were on display among the mass of spectators.

      This is not meant to underestimate the tyrannic conditions Khazakh society also experienced for years: only, I feel that it’s due, whenever such a subject comes to the fore, to take the occasion and highlight similarly odious situations (always within cycling, of course: many more do lie outside the scope of this pages); besides, it’s someway opportune to put things into some proportional perspective – be it only to think, from time to time, about those who struggle much more when finding space in mainstream media is concerned.

      Finally, I don’t know at all what’s the exact nature of the turmoils in Khazakhstan – and please note that it would change nothing regarding the loathsome nature of Nursultan’s rule (by the way, it’s a funny paradox that the team is still being called “Astana”).
      However, apparent good ends don’t justify possibly mischievous hidden ends, all it of course by quite dubious means: we should be very cautious in moral judgements about recent situations in faraway countries (again: this is *not* about the historically well-established nature of Nazarbayev’s autocracy), especially when mainstream media are so fast in offering standard coverage.
      Geostrategic ill-intentioned interventions way too often take this very aspect and they don’t usually lead to anything good or better or even remotely accceptable for people living in the countries involved, whether or not the desired process eventually ends up being more or less successful (whatever that might mean).
      Obviously, I’m not saying that this is surely the case: I know as little as anybody else about the actual extension and depth of engagement of local society, plus their political views; and, anyway, shooting people during uprisings or riots is never acceptable, be it in Khazakhstan, in Italy, in the USA or in the Netherlands.
      My opinion is simply that, beyond basic facts (which frankly didn’t substantially change this week in major political terms), we’d better not jump on the most immediately available narrative, at least if we aspire to some sort of moral appraisal.

      • Erika Fatland’s Sovietistan, travels in ex Soviet Central Asia by a Norwegian woman, is rather telling on the differences between various ex-Sov republics. They’re certainly not all the same. Not that I’d choose to holiday in any of them.

        • “Not that I’d choose to holiday in any of them”.

          Too bad! The avid cyclist shouldn’t skip Turkmenistan or Tajikistan, the latter in case you really love wild cycling and mountains with peculiar names, the former because they wildly love cycling and peculiar dogs. Their Patron does, at least, and UCI is acknowledging it the best they can.

          ( including cyclingtips links not to be missed)

          • Fatland’s book, by the way, has deserved some criticism for its glaring Orientalistic approach. Without having read it, I have the impression those readers were unduly expecting or asking too much (it’s overtly a travel book based on anecdotes, come on!, no academic essay of sort. And doesn’t pretend to, either), yet the sort of Eurocentric and superficially judgemental approach which was apparent from some excerpt was also surprising to me when considering the author’s formation in anthropology. Like, complaining about places being dirty, seriously?

            Ps The food is shocking in each and every country which does *not* have a cycling GT 😛

    • Worth remembering the bulk of their riders are Kazakh and right now they can’t contact their families back home because the internet is down. It is potentially awkward for the other riders but only if they’re more aware of the news and especially if things worsen.

      Riders can always sign for this or that team with a questionable sponsor and know what they’re getting, the issue for Astana is that the terms might have changed now the internet’s been turned off and if protests about fuel prices (as distinct from looting or agitation) are met with lethal force.

    • MRJ- regarding: “How proud would you be to sport those colors? I have to wonder, how deep might you be willing to dig to bring home the win for… those thugs? Do you cross the finish line and point to the name Astana on your jersey?”
      I guess you missed this above – “…before anyone starts claiming riders on the Astana team endorse the activities of the sponsor/government via the act of wearing the team kit and cashing a paycheck I’d ask if you’d apply the same standard to riders named Thomas, Pidcock, McNulty, Bennett, Wright, Davies, Froome or Woods?”

      • Perhaps your post wasn’t “missed” but rather ignored, which is the natural reaction to you banging the same drum again and again, no matter how tangentially related to the topic at hand.

        • That’s certainly an option if you don’t mind looking like someone commenting in a vacuum or silo where the only comments you read are those that agree with yours….or you don’t read any of ’em and just throw in yours regardless of whether it’s already been posted or refuted.
          Why is it OK to “bang the same drum again and again” about the so-called villainy of Astana while seemingly ignoring it elsewhere? It really seems silly now as the Kazakh crisis looks more like a fight over power between rival factions rather than the original “evil autocrats vs the people” narrative the west seemed to be hoping for.

          • “Why is it OK to “bang the same drum again and again” about the so-called villainy of Astana while seemingly ignoring it elsewhere?”

            Because the post being commented upon is about the the villainy of the governmental sponsor of Astana, and is not about anything or anywhere else?

          • OK Kevin, that’s a reasonable point. I’ll just suggest in fairness that if there’s going to be discussion of the “villainy” of sponsors of cycling teams it not be limited to just Kazakhstan/Astana.
            On the subject of sponsor villainy, I was thinking the other day about motorsports and the embrace of tobacco companies. I laughed when folks used to tell me these companies were fans of motorsports and that’s why they spent advertising money on them, ignoring the fact that tobacco advertising was banned on television and this was a convenient way to get your logo on-screen despite the bans.
            With pro cycling I wonder about a similar thing – it’s cheap to buy into for villains who want to sportwash their image (most of them are involved in plundering the earth’s resources instead of marketing nicotine, though their actual level of interest in the sport is about the same IMHO) these days compared to things like F1, but with the inflated costs related to the WT who could afford to replace them if they were all kicked out?
            To those who want to start requiring that each “team should face questions about what, and who, it is riding for.” I say be careful what you wish for and if you’re going to do it, make sure it’s fairly applied across-the-board…no exceptions.

      • Not going to lie – I don’t think you can compare Ineos’ backers with Astana. It’s the same as all the hatred aimed at Lance Armstrong. Yes, he is a massive massive a$$hole, and clearly lied and cheated. But his moral compass doesn’t support murder and genocide and human rights abuses.

        Same for Ineos – clearly the owners are super greedy and are attempting to “greenwash” the oil industry. But, please point out where Radcliffe has ordered his security team to kill people who disagree with him or anything even close to resembling this.

        There is a clear difference between greedy a$$hole businessmen and autocrats who forcibly assault or kill citizens in their country.

  8. It will simply be an advertising/propaganda decision. Advertising budgets are often the first to take a hit but some states place a lot of importance on propaganda.
    Politics and business do mix and professional sport is all about business.

  9. Not sure if anyone caught this, but the first commentator mentions Inring’s sentence “Now the fate of a pro cycling team doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to these issues…” This “hill of beans”expression has been around for many years, but most famously, its was used in the movie classic “Casablanca” where Humphrey Bogart’s character tells another that the problems they’re having “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Much of the script of that film is so often quoted, it’s kind of become part of common speech, so much so that people using it have no idea they’re actually quoting from a script.

  10. Another fantastic piece by inrng that I found very neutral and informative.

    To the rest of you commentators intent on making the article something it wasn’t and always beating the sky/ ineos drum , give it a rest until England has a civil war and inrng writes about it.

  11. Unless the Olympic committee decides to ban this country i don’t see how the uci can have any decision on astana’s future as long as they meet there world tour requirements.
    And should they. They are perhaps supposed to be an organisation encompassing all the world not just the governments that they approve of.
    A very tricky moral question not an easy yes or know answer.
    However if you ban this country then also you need to ban the following. China, North Korea, Cambodia, Thialand maybe, parts of Africa, Venezuela, some other countries in south america may be on the list, Belarus, Russia and others i don’t even know.
    However the world is not powerless. If you want this team banned it should not be left to the UCI. Economic sanctions limiting money flows from the regime by the european union would probably lead to an immediate collapse of the team.

    • In the event of Kazakhstan being suspended by the IOC, the maximum impact on Astana Qazakstan Team would probably be that they would have to choose something else to have in place of the Kazakh flag icon next to their team name on broadcast graphics. Perhaps the national cycling federation’s

      Odds are that it wouldn’t even be that hard on them. After all, the UCI isn’t bothering to properly apply the current IOC/WADA suspension on the use of Russian identity.

      I agree that economic sanctions by the EU could be a threat to the team, but even then it would depend on
      (a) whether the EU actually means it or declares the job done straight after sending the press release, and
      (b) the EU’s ability to untangle the ties between EU businesses and Kazakh ownership, in which I have very little faith after hearing stories from a forensic accountant who has been attempting to work with EU authorities on rolling up an international crime network.

    • As you say the UCI doesn’t have the bandwidth to ban a country and besides it is an IOC member, the creed is political neutrality, so unless something very serious happens and usually internal to the federation/sport etc, eg Russia was suspended from the Olympics because of the doping scandals, a breach of the rules of sport.

  12. I image that Nibali will have his contract and earnings defined in €, one presumes Lusenko, Lopez, Moscon and De La Cruz too, but surely all the lesser names are paid in devalued and hard to convert Tenge.

    Whatever the political situation, buoyant gas and oil prices should mean the ressources are available to continue to support Vino’s team if the will is there.

    A fascinating article Mr IR.

  13. Ethics? I flip from keep em out of sport as probably no sponsors would pass the test to a feeling that at heart Astana, like PSG and is just washing its image through sport and it should be stopped.

    Would I wear an Astana jersey? No. Jumbo? Yes. Euskaltel? Hell, yes!

    Are Euskaltel different to Astana? Both are using sport as a way of promoting a national image, I guess the Corinthian ideal is a long way from Pro-cycling. But for me, Astana hasn’t worked, would be glad to see them replaced. The two questions are where is the line and who draws it.

  14. “Would I wear an Astana jersey? No. Jumbo? Yes. Euskaltel? Hell, yes!”
    That’s an interesting question. I think the last one I wore must have been Gatorade back when Bugno and Fidanza were riders. We had friends in Bergamo who were friends with them – even taking us for a ride one day where I kind of got an “Abdu’s eye-view” riding behind Fidanza, usually the last man in the sprint train. Here in Sicily I see plenty of pro team jerseys from Nibali’s career – Astana, Liquigas, Bahrain and Trek while Carrera from the Chiapucci/Pantani days and Mercatone Uno are out there on the old guys.

  15. Sorry to harp on about this, but words matter and I am not going to not say this: people from Kazakhstan are “Kazakhstani.” Kazakhs are a repressed ethnic group, many but not all of whom live in Kazakhstan. Pretty much the same thing goes for Indiana, by the way.

  16. Inrng – I couldn’t agree more – watching Astana ride next year will be hard to stomach, you don’t even care about the wins or anything because the team serves zero purpose. Similarly, the “re-branding” is a joke – was it intended to fool the fans to serve what end?

    It’s a head shaker – the UCI continues to hand out licenses to autocrats who would never pass mine or most fans’ democratic or sense of humanity. In that same sense, I find it very hard to cheer for UAE backed Tadej Pogacar. Is it just me, or do these teams make Ineos’ backers/Lance look like stand-up decent citizens?

    • Do you write-off the rider based on who signs his paychecks? As Richard S. likes to point out I like Vincenzo Nibali no matter what team he rides for, while I can dislike Bahrain, Astana, INEOS, UAE as teams but still like Bernal, Pogacar and Caruso. I was trying to think of a single team whose sponsor I liked (or at least didn’t dislike) with management that seems good and with riders who race-to-win rather than not-to-lose. The best I could do was DQS and even with them I have to kind of bite my tongue on some of the things the boss there says and ignore their bully-boy bike sponsor.

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