Kazakhstan’s flagship international cycling team will have to sweat it out until February to see if it can compete that year in major international road races, including the Tour de France. A series of doping scandals has tainted the team. But where international sports officials see serious infractions, Kazakhstanis tend to see an international plot to steal their glory.
Five Kazakhstani riders from the Astana stable failed drug tests in quick succession this year, triggering an investigation by the sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI). The cycling team – known as Astana Pro Team – is bankrolled by Kazakhstan’s sovereign-wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna. The team, which has produced Tour de France winners several times, helps promote Brand Kazakhstan globally.
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Paul Bartlett is an Almaty-based freelance writer.