Astana has dropped a 26-year-old rider from their roster due to concerns over his heart health.
Kazakh pro Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev joined the WorldTour team in 2014 but his contract will not be renewed after he suffered a “health incident” during a recent training camp.
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Concerns for Kozhatayev’s health were raised during training in September, and he underwent extensive tests with cardiologists, which revealed a condition that leaves him unable to compete at the highest level.
Astana boss and retired pro Alexandr Vinokourov said: “For all of us it is an absolutely unexpected situation.
“The decision we made was a tough one but, first of all, it was done in favour of the athlete’s health, which always was and still is our main priority.
“The health problems that Bakhtiyar suffered this autumn led to a number of medical tests which, in the end, became the basis for clear recommendations – it is impossible to perform at the level of the UCI WorldTour.”
Kozhatayev’s contract with Astana runs out at the end of the year and the team have decided not to renew.
Vinokourov added: “It is very sad, as Kozhatayev is a young and talented rider, however we simply do not have the right to put the heath of the athlete at risk.
“The team will support Bakhtiyar as much as possible in this difficult moment.
“On behalf of the whole team, I want to thank Bakhtiyar for all the years spent in Astana and wish him, first of all, health and good luck.”
Kozhatayev rode for Astana’s Continental division team for two years before moving up to the WorldTour squad.
He rode to top-10s in the Tour of Hainan and the Tour of Almaty, also lining up at the Tour de France in 2017 and the Giro d’Italia in 2016.
Astana’s chief doctor, Serge Niamke, said: “The state of health of Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev in the last few months has raised some questions, so we decided to perform a number of tests in several cardiac centres in order to understand the situation as accurately as possible.
“Fortunately, no grave pathologies that might threaten the life of the athlete were found.
“However, some deviations have appeared and they are incompatible with the loads that exist in the WorldTour.
“Therefore, our council informed the team’s management about the current situation and recommended the rider to quite the active professional career.”