Cycling's governing body, the UCI said that Astana is in "an extremely serious situation" after its recent doping cases with brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy and that it could reflect on its 2015 WorldTour licence.
"The UCI views the positive tests for EPO by two riders of the same team as an extremely serious situation and one which raises questions about the management of the team and the ethics which are upheld within it," the UCI said in a statement.
"We will be discussing this with the team to see whether we are satisfied that they are doing all they can to ensure their riders do not use performance-enhancing drugs. Once we have reviewed the situation, we will see if there are changes we believe need to be made internally at the team or indeed whether we should attach conditions to their licence going forward which are consistent with the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] Code."
Astana won the Tour de France with Vincenzo Nibali in July, but ended the season on a low note with back-to-back doping cases. Valentin Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO at the Eneco Tour on August 11 and older brother Maxim on August 1, the day before the Clásica San Sebastián. The UCI announced both test results in the last month.
Since Astana is one of 11 first division teams that follows stricter rules of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), it had to stop racing. One of the MPCC's rules states that if a team has two positive anti-doping tests in a 12-month period, it must sit out for eight days from the next WorldTour race. Its suspension starts on Friday with the Tour of Beijing and forces them to skip Italian races Giro dell'Emilia and the GP Beghelli.
General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov said he was "disappointed and angered" when news broke about Maxim, who won the 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the 2010 Strade Bianche and stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Romandie in Astana's blue colours.
The positive cases shed a bad light on Nibali as Maxim helped him win the Tour de France and have now forced the UCI to take a second look at Vinokourov.
'Vino' brought in Astana, a group of businesses that took the name of the capital, to sponsor team Liberty Seguros in the wake of 2006 Operación Puerto doping scandal. In 2007, he had to abandon the Tour de France after failing a test to detect blood doping. He returned to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the London Olympics road race, but the bad memories remained.
UCI President Brian Cookson said last month at a press conference that he wants the ongoing Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) to tackle the issue of former dopers’ involvement in cycling.
"I want to see that come out of the commission," Cookson said. "Who is a 'fit and proper' and what kind of person should be involved in the management of a team. We are hoping the commission will give us some firm guidelines."
The UCI announced today that 17 teams are asking to be apart of the 2015 WorldTour, including Astana. It will look over certain criteria before issuing any licence. Though Astana may pass the sporting and financial tests, it may risks failing when it comes to ethics.
A quick guide to an uneasy ride in the pro peloton
Under Movement for Credible Cycling rules, Astana have withdrawn from competition after positive tests for Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy
Kazakh rider Valentin Iglinskiy failed test for EPO at Eneco Tour and admits to using the banned blood booster
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