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Astana sponsor to stay on through 2010

After series of doping scandals the Astana cycling team has applied for a new ProTour license. It’s sponsor will maintain through 2010.

"So far, there has been no indication given to the executive board of the Astana Cycling Team that the team would not continue its activities," Astana said in a statement Wednesday. "In addition, the formalities for obtaining the UCI 2008 license are under way."

The team said its sponsor, Zeus Sarl, will honor its contract with the Kazakh cycling federation through 2010.

Zeus Sarl is a small company based in Neuchatel, Switzerland, which specializes in organizing sporting events and representing athletes. Astana manager Marc Biver is also head of the company.

The Swiss-Kazakh team is trying to restore its reputation and dispel rumors of a possible disbandment following the positive doping tests of several of its riders, prompting the team to withdraw from all competition for a month.

The entire Astana team left this year's Tour de France after Alexandre Vinokourov, a pre-race favorite, tested positive for a banned blood transfusion following his victory in the 13th stage time trial.

On Friday, Kazakh rider Andrey Kashechkin was fired after a backup sample tested positive for a blood transfusion.

Prior to the Tour, Matthias Kessler was fired after both his samples from a test in April showed elevated testosterone levels.

Astana was expected to make its comeback at the Spanish Vuelta this month, but organizers in Spain revoked the team's invitation because of the doping incidents.

On Sunday, Discovery Channel sporting director Johan Bruyneel - who helped Lance Armstrong win seven straight Tour de France titles - said Astana had recently offered him a position as team manager.

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