Team Astana, Vincenzo Nibali and those related to the team are remaining quiet as a crucial decision looms on the team’s future. Following several positive drug tests and reports of links to doping doctor Michele Ferrari, the UCI must decide if the team has a right to race on the WorldTour in 2015.
The Tour de France winner is in Calpe, Spain, at a training camp with his team. He postponed planned interviews with Spanish press until Thursday, one day after his team’s future will be determined.
“Life philosophy,” Nibali wrote on Twitter. “I’ll continue to live my life calmly because I’ve always been transparent.”
Nibali plans to stay with the team at least while it has a licence, or failing that, while it appeals any negative decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
“Nibali has to stay at least until the team sees a possible appeals case through to the CAS,” Nibali’s agent, Alex Carera, told Cycling Weekly on Tuesday.
“We can’t go looking for new teams now. I can’t… that’s against the rules for an agent. When a rider has a contract, you can’t search for new teams.
“We are waiting the decision, then we will sit down and talk. I know the team will appeal if the UCI decides against its licence, so then we will wait for the appeal ruling.”
Nibali’s Tour helper, Maxim Iglinskiy, tested positive for EPO after the race. His brother Valentin Iglinskiy also failed a test for the same blood booster drug. Three riders from Astana’s third division feeder team – Ilya Davidenok, Victor Okishev and Artur Fedosseyev – tested positive for steroids.
The governing body, the UCI, said that the cases reflected poorly on the team and asked its licence commission to review the status of the team for 2015. That status looks poorer this week after La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper reported that team members were photographed with Ferrari at a November 2013 training camp.
Ferrari was banned for life following the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) case in 2012. According the agency’s decision, the Italian doctor helped cyclists cheat with EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions. In 2002, Italy had already prohibited him from working with any licensed athlete.
“Media bullshit,” responded Ferrari to claims that he visited the Astana team ahead of its Tour winning season. “It’s totally false and I hope the team sues for damages.”
Nibali faced questions about Ferrari at the Tour de France. He was reportedly spotted training with the doctor early in his career, but he sued and the case was dropped in 2011. In July Nibali said he had “never met him personally”.
According to Italian police, Astana trainer Paolo Slongo has had “frequent contact” with Ferrari. Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper reported on Monday that a recently closed investigation in Padua showed Slongo’s involvement and that of General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov.
‘Vino’ is not in Calpe, but at home in the Kazakh capital of Astana on business. Slongo talked to journalists in Spain, but not about the current claims linking him and the team to Ferrari.