The UCI published on Tuesday the Licence Commission's seven-page report concerning its reasons for suspending the withdrawal of Astana's WorldTour licence following the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) independent audit. UCI President Brian Cookson stated in a press release that, "taking into account that the team will be under the supervision of the ISSUL and monitored by the Licence Commission for the rest of the 2015 season, we are satisfied by this decision which we believe is proportionate."
The press release noted that the Licence Commission judged that many of the team's negative points brought up in the ISSUL audit were capable of improvement and that the team had already started to implement the reorganisation of its anti-doping structure along with the commitment of Astana Pro Team to adhere strictly to the remedial action recommended by the ISSUL. And that the team's commitments “are of a nature that enable it to undergo a fundamental reform in order to prevent the risks of doping."
The Licence Commission concluded that, "At this stage, in view of the modifications that have already taken place, those that are announced, the commitment to adhere to the conditions laid down by the ISSUL with the approval of and under the supervision of the Commission, and the absence of further incidents since autumn 2014, it is found that the sanction of a withdrawal, motivated mainly by facts of the past, would not, as of today, respect the principle of proportionality."
The Licence Commission cited five main conclusions:
- It is noted that the Team has committed to conform to measures recommended by the ISSUL and that this commitment is formalised in a document signed by the UCI WorldTeam Astana, the ISSUL and the Licence Commission.
- The respect of this commitment is to be monitored by the ISSUL under the supervision of the Commission.
- The procedure of the withdrawal of the licence of the UCI WorldTeam Astana is suspended. That means, the registration of the UCI WorldTeam Astana for 2015 is maintained.
- In the case of non-compliance with the terms of agreement, the ISSUL will notify the Commission, which can at any time reopen the procedure of licence withdrawal.
- The reopening of the procedure can also occur in the case of new cases of doping or other serious infringements of the rules.
Cookson's full statement on the decision read, “First of all I would like to thank the Licence Commission for its professionalism during this procedure and the way that it has worked in total independence vis-à-vis all the parties concerned.
"The UCI recognises the constructive approach adopted by the Licence Commission. We are pleased to note that Astana Pro Team has committed to a process of in-depth reforms thanks to this procedure initiated before the Licence Commission. Taking into account that the team will be under the supervision of the ISSUL and monitored by the Licence Commission for the rest of the 2015 season, we are satisfied by this decision which we believe is proportionate.
"We are confident of the fact that the measures that the team has committed to put in place will help it improve its culture, its structures and its systems for governing anti-doping. We believe it is our responsibility to accompany each UCI WorldTeam towards increased professionalism and we firmly believe that the application of the 'cahier des charges' will contribute towards this. Finally, I would like to thank the ISSUL for its expertise and its collaboration both during this procedure and in the establishment of the 'cahier des charges'."
In February the UCI requested that the Astana Pro Team should have their licence withdrawn by the independent Licence Commission.
The Kazakh team had been awarded their initial licence at WorldTour level in December of last year with UCI President Brian Cookson telling Cyclingnews that the team were 'drinking in the last chance saloon' after several doping cases in the space of a matter of weeks, with Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy testing positive for EPO, and Ilya Davidenok showing traces of anabolic steroids in a drug test.
The UCI's decision to seek the removal of the team's licence came after the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) audit had "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."
Astana agreed to be audited and it was eventually announced in April that the team managed by Alexander Vinokourov, would keep their WorldTour licence. When making the announcement, the UCI stated that the team must comply with "specific measures".
The governing body said at the time: "In the meantime, the registration for the 2015 season remains in force. However, the Team's licence is subject to strict monitoring of the conditions laid down. This monitoring will be carried out on the basis of reports transmitted by ISSUL to the Licence Commission. The Licence Commission shall be able to re-open the proceedings if Astana Pro Team fails to respect one or several of the conditions imposed, or if new elements arise."
Not only were Astana forced to face up to a number of positive cases but they had to deal with speculative links to the banned doctor Michele Ferrari and ties to the on going Padua investigation with Gazzetta dello Sport reporting in December that up to 17 riders had been linked to Ferrari.