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UCI requests withdrawal of Astana Pro Team license

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced Friday that, “after careful review of an extensive report produced by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) on the Astana Pro Team,” the international federation strongly believes that the audit “contains compelling grounds” to refer the matter to the License Commission and request that Astana’s Pro Team license, which is required to be considered a WorldTour team, be withdrawn.

The audit of Astana’s anti-doping culture, policies, structures, and management systems was one of the conditions attached to the controversial registration of the team in the 2015 UCI WorldTour, announced in December.

The ISSUL audit sought to determine whether, and to what extent, Astana team management was responsible in doping cases concerning its riders Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy (EPO) and Ilya Davidenok (anabolic steroids), the latter a trainee with Astana since August 1, 2014.

The ISSUL was tasked to “assess the team’s internal structures, culture, and management systems, to understand whether they are adequate, and to ensure that the highest ethical standards are upheld.”

The UCI used strong language in its statement Friday, writing that the ISSUL audit, among other things, “revealed a big difference between the policies and structures that the team presented to the Licence Commission in December and the reality on the ground.”

In addition, the statement read, “Italian authorities have provided the UCI with the sections of the Padova investigation which it has been authorized to share. As some evidence concerns Astana Pro Team members, the file has been passed to the Licence Commission as part of this referral.”

Among Astana’s riders are 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, who may now be in a bind for the 2015 season.

If Astana is denied a Pro Team license, it could potentially receive a UCI Pro Continental license, meaning the team may still be able to compete at many major races — just without a guarantee to participate in all WorldTour events, such as the sport’s three grand tours.

Pro Continental teams are eligible for wildcard invitations to WorldTour events, however the Association Internationale des Organisateurs de Courses Cyclistes (AIOCC) has agreed that members of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) will be given priority on wildcard invitations, and Astana’s place in the MPCC has also been on shaky ground over the past few months.

The potential loss of a WorldTour license, over ethics concerns, could potentially push the MPCC to follow suit, meaning the team could be without invitations to any major races.

Astana’s general manager is Alexander Vinokourov, who twice tested positive for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France and worked with banned doctor Michele Ferrari in the past. He has strongly denied any systematic doping by the Astana team.

Astana spokesman Chris Baldwin told VeloNews, “We are compelled to respect the decision pending due process from the Independent License Commission.”

The UCI said it would not comment further until the License Commission has rendered its decision: “For the sake of due process, the UCI is not in a position to comment further on the content of the audit report, nor the Padova investigation, until the Licence Commission has assessed the situation and rendered its decision. But this decision to refer the matter to the Licence Commission was reached taking all circumstances and potential consequences into consideration.”

The UCI License Commission is its independent body, tasked with issuing, reviewing, withdrawing, and attaching conditions to UCI WorldTour licenses and ensuring that license-holders continuously comply with the terms of the license. It is made up of four professionals who work independently of the UCI; its president is Pierre Zappelli, a former Swiss Court Supreme Judge.

No timeline for the License Commission’s decision was announced.

UPDATE:

In an official statement, the team said, “Astana Pro Team has received confirmation from the Union Cycliste International of their receipt of results from the recent audit by the Institute of Sport and Science at the University of Lausanne, and the subsequent transfer of those results to the Independent License Commission.

“Astana Pro Team will consult with its attorneys to prepare documents and testimony before the Independent License Commission

“Astana Pro Team will reserve its rights pending due process at the Independent License Commission to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport following the scheduled procedure.”