German sprinter Marcel Kittel remains sour over the UCI granting team Astana a WorldTeam licence despite its recent doping cases.

Cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), renewed Astana’s WorldTeam licence in December after an extended review. With the licence, the team in turquoise that includes 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, is able to take part in all the top races automatically.

The Kazakh team suffered from five doping cases: three came from its continental feeder team and two came from its professional team. Maxim Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO after helping Nibali win the Tour. His brother Valentin also tested positive for the same banned blood booster.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation for everyone and definitely not satisfying how things went,” team Giant-Alpecin’s Kittel said when asked about his comments on team Astana in December.

“I hope that they will change that in the future to be able to react in a different way in case that happens again.”

President Brian Cookson told Cycling Weekly that he preferred to renew the team’s licence rather than “to put our organisation and sport at risk by taking a decision that would be challenged legally”.

The UCI faced and lost a legal challenge in 2013. Its commission refused Katusha’s licence for ethical problems in 2012. The Russian team appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and forced the UCI to accept it for the 2013 WorldTour.

Reports leaked at the same time that 17 former Astana cyclists, including current General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov, were part of a doping inquiry in Padua, Italy. It centred on banned doctor Michele Ferrari, who was also allegedly photographed at Astana’s November 2013 training camp.

Kittel took to Twitter after the decision and the Ferrari reports.

“I really hope that the recent changes at the UCI & the new trust in @BrianCooksonUCI pay off after all the bad doping news,” he wrote.

“I hope that they will show strength with a decision that protects clean riders & underlines our call for a credible anti-doping fight. There can’t be any tolerance for a doping system especially like the one from the Padova investigation.”

Kittel, winner of four stages in the 2014 Tour de France, is racing in the Tour of Qatar this week. When asked on Tuesday, he sympathised with the situation in which the UCI found itself.

“They were, of course, under pressure that if they took a decision, they would lose in a legal case to a team that would appeal the decision,” said Kittel.

“The most important thing is that we saw that the rules are not strict enough. I hope that they will change the rules to be able to react in a different way.”

Astana could still suffer. The 550-page case summary from the Padua investigation was passed over to the UCI and into the hands of its licence commission. In addition, the report from the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) is due at the end of February. Both the dossier and commission report could create problems for Astana.

  • MrHaematocrit

    Kittel is not beyond question as he has a past of documented blood irradiation and although it was not against the rules at the time, it most certainly was not in the spirit of them. It also shows Kittel is prepared to push boundaries for gains. Who knows what he may or may not have done. It remains healthy for fans to question riders no matter who they are. If Kittel wants to take a stand why not make all his own performance data public for peer review & encourage others to do the same?

  • Megan

    Ok I have a issue with everyone criticism of Kittel for having a opinion on this. Can someone people advise me why he can’t, because clearly a lot of you have one. And to all those who are implying that he is on drugs, why not just come out and say it. Might I also point out that he is built just like every other sprinter that is over 6 foot and if you think he look like a “bodybuilder” then you clearly have not see a track cyclist. And for those of you who may have forgotten Vincenzo Nibali not only won the yellow jersey but he also won 4 mountain stages. Lance Armstrong in both 2001 and 2002 won 4 stages and look at what happened there, just saying.

  • briantrousers

    Isn’t that Kittel calling the pot black? (Like what I did there?)

  • Michael

    i expect he’s fed up that the sport he’s dedicating a large part of his life to appears unable to effectively deal with its problems, and how this is therefore perceived by sponsors, fans, media etc – particularly in his home country

  • Janet Mozelewski

    Sometimes I wonder why Kittel doth protest so much. Its odd. Not like he’s a climber / GC man is it? He’s a sprinter afterall…Albeit one who looks like a …um…bodybuilder.

  • dourscot

    Kittel is right – Astana and Katusha now elicit whispers every time one of their riders wins anything, hardly a great advert to pull in new sponsors.

  • Larry Page

    marcel who?