VALDOBBIADENE, Italy – Lance Armstrong’s Astana team must straighten out its financial crisis by May 31 or risk being suspended.
Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said Monday that the International Cycling Union sent a warning letter to Kazakhstan’s cycling federation.
“That’s the deadline to arrange the whole financial situation. If it’s not taken care of by then, the letter says that the team will be suspended,” Bruyneel said. “At least we’re going to be able to finish the Giro.”
The Giro d’Italia, which Armstrong is racing in for the first time, ends May 31.
Astana receives most of its financial support from Kazakh state holding company Samruk-Kazyna, but the Central Asian nation’s economy has been badly hit by the global financial crisis. The team has not paid its employees lately.
UCI president Pat McQuaid was expected to visit Kazakhstan this week.
Armstrong indicated last week that he was talking to U.S.-based sponsors about taking over the team himself. That might be his only solution if he wants to go for an eighth Tour de France title in July.
“I’ve already said all I know about Kazakhstan is Astana (and) “Borat.” I don’t know anything more,” Armstrong said when last asked about the issue. “It’s not my team, it’s not my sponsor. I’ve got nothing to say about it. I would love to give you an answer, but I don’t have one. I would be speculating.
“It’s difficult to go to any major corporation and say in the middle of the . . . the fiscal year and say, ‘How about we start in 20 or 30 days?’ But we’ll see.”
Armstrong moved up to fifth place in the Giro d’Italia on Monday. His first real test comes with Tuesday’s uphill finish, and the seven-time Tour de France winner isn’t quite sure what to expect.
Cyclist Boonen draws fine
BRUSSELS – Former world cycling champion Tom Boonen drew a heavy fine from his team on top of his indefinite suspension after testing positive for cocaine a second time. His actions could keep him out of the Tour de France.
The Belgian failed the drug test last month. He will enter therapy and be allowed to stay with the Quick Step team, which will announce the amount of the fine later.
Tour de France organizers barred him last year after his first positive test and are expected to decide shortly on his status for this summer’s race.
Top shot blocker returning
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State center Jarvis Varnado will return for his senior season after deciding not to turn pro.
The school announced the decision late Monday.
The nation’s leading shot blocker for two straight seasons will make a run at the NCAA record for career blocks in 2009-10.
He is 19 blocks shy of breaking Shaquille O’Neal’s career SEC record of 412 and is 142 from passing the NCAA career mark of 535 set from 1999-2002 by Louisiana-Monroe’s Wojciech Mydra.
Serena leaves with injury
MADRID – Serena Williams pulled out of the Madrid Open on Monday after aggravating an injury to her right knee during a first-round match against Francesca Schiavone.
The second-seeded Williams retired after losing the first set 6-4. She declined to detail the extent of the problem, but said it would not keep her out of the upcoming French Open.