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Following a number of positive tests involving the Neri Sottoli team, the MPCC anti-doping movement has announced that the squad’s membership has been suspended until at least next October.
“At the last MPCC general meeting, all of the team members have required further explanations from Neri Sottoli’s manager Angelo Citracca in order to confirm, or not, the membership of the team,” it said in a statement issued today.
“At the end of the interview with the Neri Sottoli team’s sporting director Serge Parsani, who was representing Anglo Citracca, the board of directors agreed unanimously to suspend the Neri Sottoli team with immediate effect until the General Assembly of October 2015.”
Under the title of the previous sponsors Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, the team had two positive tests for EPO in 2013. These involved the riders Mauro Santambrogio and Danilo di Luca. The team teetered on the brink of collapse but was able to continue with the backing of Neri Sottoli.
It pledged to up internal anti-doping measures and somehow secured an invite to the Giro d’Italia. However those claims of good intentions were called into question when the team’s leader in that race, Matteo Rabottini, tested positive for EPO in an out of competition test carried out on August 8.
The news of this positive was made public on September 14.
The team was asked to give clarification to the MPCC and clearly hasn’t been able to satisfy that organisation’s request for a satisfactory explanation.
Meanwhile the MPCC has turned its sights to another team with three positives, namely the Astana Continental squad. Ilya Davidenok, Victor Okishev and Artur Fedosseyev all failed tests for anabolic androgenic steroids in recent months.
The results of the B sample analyses have not yet been made public, but the team has been suspended by the Astana WorldTour team’s general manager Alexandre Vinokourov.
The latter squad is also under the spotlight, with brothers Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy both testing positive for EPO in tests carried out in August.
The MPCC has said that if the team is reactivated, that it needs to auto-suspend itself from racing for five weeks. This period represents one week for the second positive test and four for the third.
Speaking to CyclingTips last week, MPCC president Roger Legeay said that it was important to treat the positive tests on the WorldTour team separate to those on the Continental team.
He said that the MPCC follows the UCI’s example in regarding all such squads as separate legal entities.
However the Astana Continental team has actually had four positive tests in little over a year. In addition to the three positives this season, Vladislav Gorbunov tested positive for Methylhexaneamine in August 2013 after he finished eighth on stage four of the Volta a Portugal. He was handed an 18 month ban.
Last week Legeay made clear that a two year span is in place for consideration of multiple positives and possible penalties.
“The rules are very strict,” he said, speaking about the WorldTour team and what the MPCC regulations would dictate if a third rider from that squad were to test positive.
“The first Astana positive in 2014 was the first of August 2014. In our rules, if they have a third rider positive before the 31st of July 2016, they stop for one month. That is a very, very strong pressure on the team and the riders not to make mistakes.
“If the date is before a Grand Tour, they don’t ride that Tour. If the third positive arrives just one week before the Vuelta, they don’t ride the Vuelta. If it arrives one week before the Tour de France, they don’t ride the Tour.
“That is very big, and is more than the WADA rules would be.”
CyclingTips sought clarification from the MPCC as to why Gorbunov’s 2013 positive doesn’t appear to have been taken into consideration thus far in relation to the Continental team. It said that the team joined the organisation in January 2014 and that the number of positive tests before that point are not included.