Report: Astana facing March 20 deadline for licence defence

WorldTour team ready to appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport

The Astana team has until March 20 to prepare its defence and response to the UCI's request to revoke its licence according to a report in the L'Equipe newspaper.

The UCI formally requested that its Licence Commission revoke the Kazakhstan team's WorldTour licence after an audit by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) of the team's anti-doping culture, policies, structures and management systems. The UCI also claimed that it has now received important evidence from the Padua police investigation. This was not available when the UCI Licence Commission granted the Astana team a 2015 licence in December.

"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it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn," read a statement from the UCI's communications department last week.

According to L'Equipe, the Astana team has until March 20 – two days before Milan-San Remo, to submit its response to the Licence Commission. No date has yet been decided for an eventual hearing.

Astana was given a 2015 WorldTour licence despite a series of doping scandals during the 2014 season. However UCI President Brian Cookson told Cyclingnews that the team "were drinking in the last chance saloon."

When awarding the initial licence the UCI warned that any further "deficiencies or in case of faulty implementation of the internal operational requirements", or if the UCI confirms the offences brought in the Padua case, it "would prompt a referral to the Licence Commission to envisage, if necessary, the withdrawal of the licence."

The Astana team has acknowledged that it has received the results of the ISSUL audit and is preparing its legal defence. The team suggested that it would fight any attempts to revoke its licence and warned it reserved the right to appeal any decision by the Licence commission to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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