On 19th November 2014, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world governing body of pro cycling informed the Astana Pro cycling team that one of its riders had reported an Adverse Analytical Finding for androgenic steroids. According to the UCI, the rider in question was Victor Okishev, a member of the team’s junior set-up, The Astana Continental team, part of the 2nd division of UCI pro cycling.
The blood sample in question had been taken 6 months prior to the statement, in May, when Okishev represented his native Kazakhstan in the 2014 Asian Cycling Championships. The 20 year old Kazakh rider failed the routine performance enhancing drugs (PED) test when his A sample returned a positive for anabolic androgenic steroids.
The UCI informed the Astana Continental team that the rider had been provisionally suspended for 6 months. Okishev was given the routine right to request a test of his B sample.
The Astana Continental Team was prompt in its response to the UCI notice. Already facing the prospect of a license review from the UCI for three other doping infractions by its riders in the preceding months, the Astana team had this statement in response to UCI press release:
“All Continental Team Astana riders and staff are shocked and disappointed by the news that comes from a UCI Press Release this Wednesday, effectively six months after the sample was taken”
The team management further clarified:
“Continental Team Astana will scrupulously follow all UCI rules and regulations, and continues to follow the additional rules as per its voluntary membership in the MPCC. Currently the team is organizing immediate inquiries into the Okishev case in order to establish an overview of the facts and explanations, ”
Victor Okishev had been a promising young star in the Astana Continental roster, a feeder club of the more famous Astana Pro team. A part of the set-up since its inception in 2012, Okishev had had a string of impressive performances in his first two years with the Kazakh outfit, scoring 114 GC points and 60 time trial points in the process. He had stage victories in several events, including the 2012 Trofeo Karlsberg (3rd stage), the 2012 Giro di Basilicata (6th stage), placing 6th and 8th respectively in the GC standings in both events.
Much more than the loss of a promising junior rider, the suspension of Okishev proved far more damaging to Astana Pro Team and Astana Continental. His was the 4th drug related infraction from Astana riders in 3 months. After one more positive PED result in November, the team management was forced to summarily suspend the Astana Continental team and the Kazakh Cycling Federation instituted a “full fair” inquiry.
Victor Okishev failed to clear his name of the charges and was awarded a 2 year ban for the use of banned performance enhancing drugs by the UCI. As a result of the verdict, Okishev was also stripped of his 1st place result in the Time Trials at the U-23 Asian Cycling Championships in May. The blood sample which failed the PED test had been taken during that event only.