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AFP // peloton // Yuzuru Sunada
The UCI said a study on the Kazakhstan-based team contains “compelling grounds” for a review by the body’s independently run Licence Commission and that it requests “the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn.”
The World Tour Licence gives access to the main international races, including the Tour de France and big tours in Italy and Spain. Astana said it was “compelled to respect” the UCI move while it awaited a final decision. Media reports said it was consulting lawyers.
The team has been under the spotlight since brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinksy and three other Astana riders tested positive for banned substances in the past year.
It has also been on the defensive over Italian media claims that banned doping doctor Michele Ferrari had met with the team. The UCI agreed to give Astana a World Tour Licence in December on condition that the team cooperated with a study by Lausanne University’s Institute of Sport Sciences (ISSUL) on last year’s doping cases.
“After careful review of this extensive report, the UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn,” said a UCI statement.
“The UCI considers that the ISSUL audit has, 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.”
The federation said it had also been given details of an Italian investigation into doping and tax evasion by cycling teams. Media reports said the Italian magistrates had details of a visit to an Astana camp by banned doctor Ferrari.
Ferrari was banned from cycling for life over his role in the doping scandal surrounding disgraced US cycling champion Lance Armstrong.
“As some evidence concerns Astana Pro Team members, the file has been passed to the Licence Commission as part of this referral,” the UCI statement said.
Astana’s general manager is Alexander Vinokurov who twice tested positive for blood doping on the 2007 Tour de France and had worked with Ferrari in the past. He has strongly denied any systematic doping by the Astana team.
An Astana Pro Team spokesman told AFP of the UCI move: “We are compelled to respect the decision pending due process from the Independent Licence Commission.”
The team was expected to release a full statement later Friday.
The Iglinsky brothers of Kazakhstan are members of Astana’s World Tour team. They tested positive for EPO in September. A team trainee and two members of the third ranked Continental team also failed blood doping tests.
UPDATE (2:33 p.m. ET): Astana posted the following statement on its website:
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.
Here are some of the responses to the news posted on Twitter:
UCI showing diligence and patience by appropriate audits of current op procedures at Astana. Now license commission must decide appro action
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) February 27, 2015
So let’s take bets. During which stage of the TdF will Astana lose its appeal and be banned?
— nyvelocity (@nyvelocity) February 27, 2015
Good week for Cookson and the UCI. Spanked E3 and taking a cricket bat to Astana. Long game being played.
— Philip Gomes (@Philip_Gomes) February 27, 2015
I applaud the UCI’s stance on #Astana – now UCI need to make WT entry dependent on teams passing such an audit
— SuzeCY (@festinagirl) February 27, 2015
In many respects Astana decision not surprising. There is plenty on team & Vino in Padova investigation (only up to 2012, admittedly).
— Daniel Friebe (@friebos) February 27, 2015
Looks like UCI was to be taken seriously #Astana
— Julien Prétot (@julienpretotRTR) February 27, 2015