Vincenzo Nibali ‘Not Leaving’ Embattled Team Astana

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by Justin DAVIS

MILAN, Nov 28, 2014 (AFP) – Reigning Tour de France champion Vincenzo
Nibali insisted he will not quit the embattled cycling team Astana following
the doping positives of two teammates and three from the suspended Astana
Continental outfit.

“I’m not leaving, even though I would have every right to,” Nibali told La
Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.

Astana’s future in the professional cycling ranks is hanging in the balance
after the International Cycling Union (UCI) asked its Licence Commission last
month to “undertake a full review of the management and anti-doping policies
of the Astana Pro Team”.

Two riders from Astana’s top tier team, brothers Maxim and Valentin
Iglinskiy, have recently tested positive for banned substances.

Three riders from the Astana Continental (second division) team — a
separate team run by the Kazakh Cycling Federation (KCF) — have also tested
positive this year.

Artur Fedosseyev added his name last week to a doping blacklist already
featuring Victor Okishev and Ilya Davidenok and on Friday the KCF officially
announced the team’s suspension from competition pending a “thorough
investigation”

All five cases, however, have cast a shadow over the Astana Pro Team run by
former Tour de France podium finisher Alexandre Vinokourov, whose career was
blighted by doping suspicion and a ban for blood doping in 2007.

Despite the potential for his achievements to be overshadowed by recent
events, Nibali — the first Italian to win the fabled Tour de France yellow
jersey since deceased compatriot Marco Pantani in 1998 — said he was not
about to walk out on Astana.

“I’m sure I’ve made the right choice. I’m sure the team is going to be
given its racing licence, but if some absurd reason that doesn’t happen, I’m
not leaving, even though I would have every right to,” added Nibali.

“It’s not just me who is tied up with this team. I have my inner circle of
people. There’s a group of about six or seven of us. Where do I go?

“Astana has invested in us and we feel good here. I believe in them and
they believe in me.”

Nibali, the 2013 Giro d’Italia champion who also won the 2010 Tour of
Spain, called the recent cheats from Astana’s Continental outfit “idiots”.

“Let’s be clear. Astana and Astana 2 (Continental) are two different
things. We’ve had two (positive) cases with the Iglinskiy brothers, but that
was a family affair,” he said.

“The other three (riders) — I don’t even know what they look like — are
idiots. I don’t know what they have been up to… maybe they were motivated by
the idea of getting a contract here (with Astana) and earning a good wage.

“But that’s their business. The team has already taken action. The
Continental set-up has been suspended and (Dmitri) Sedoun has been removed.”

Sedoun was a ‘directeur sportif’ or coach with both Astana and the
Continental team but was sacked by the KCF on Friday.

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