In the two years since its inception, the Astana Continental team had been free of controversies related to performance enhancing drugs. This was in somewhat stark contrast to the senior Astana Pro team, which had its fair share of drug related controversies much like many other team in the UCI elite division. But all that changed in October 2014 with the incident involving Ilya Davidenok. His drugs test failure would be the first in a series of similar events that quickly mired the Astana Continental team in the middle of a maelstrom of controversies.
Davidenok had been a permanent fixture in the Astana Continental roster ever since the first year in 2012. In the two years, the promising young Kazakh rider had improved drastically, generating a lot of hope in the national pro cycling circles. Ilya Davidenok was a the reigning Kazakh National champion in the road race event when the doping relating incident occurred. He had represented his nation in the World U-23 championships with distinction, finishing 8th overall in the road race event. But he tested positive in August 2014 during the Tour de l’Avenir for anabolic androgenic steroids in his A sample collected at that event. The results were released by the UCI in October 2014.
Davidenok’s doping scandal carried with it a double blow. It was the first time that a junior rider of the Astana cycling project had been caught for drug related infractions. And even more seriously, two senior Astana riders, the Iglinskiy brothers, had been caught in separate tests for using the banned blood booster EPO in 2014. The Astana Pro team was already under a cloud of suspicion when the Davidenok scandal broke. To make matters even more complicated, Davidenok had been recently promoted to the stagiaire position, making him a trainee rider within the senior team.
So it was with understandable shock and dismay that the entire Astana management responded to the news of Davidenok’s drug test failure. Alexandre Vinokurov, the Astana senior manager, had been withering in his criticism of the riders after the Iglinskiy fiasco, describing himself as feeling “disappointed and angered.”
After testing positive for androgenic steroids, Davidenok was promptly placed under suspension by the Astana Continental team. The team also reiterated its commitment to the UCI rules and regulations. And since they were also a voluntary signatory to the more stringent MPCC, Team Astana also removed themselves from the remaining UCI Tour events in the 2014 calendar.
The Astana champion rider Vincenzo Nibali was also furious with the riders caught in the doping scandal. Nibali, famous for his strict zero tolerance policy towards doping in cycling, sought to distance himself and the rest of the Astana team from riders like Iglinskiy brothers, Davidenok and Okishev. He and the Astana Pro management were understandably concerned, since the doping scandals involving riders who were part of Nibali’s Tour winning side could potentially have put the legitimacy of their title in question. And the issue involving junior riders like Davidenok cast a serious shadow over the future of their UCI license to compete at both the Pro and Continental circuits.
As a result, it was with utmost dismay and disappointment that both the Astana Pro and Astana Continental team managements reacted to the doping controversies, vehemently vowing to get to the bottom of the scandal and take all necessary corrective measures.