The UCI has requested that the Astana Pro Team have their WorldTour licence revoked by the Licence Commission.
The WorldTour team was awarded a licence in December but UCI president Brian Cookson raised severe concerns over the subject, telling Cyclingnews that the team were ‘drinking in the last chance saloon’ after several doping cases in the space of matter of weeks, with Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy testing positive for EPO, and Ilya Davidenok showing traces of anabolic steroids in a drug test.
Despite these concerns, when awarding the team’s licence, the UCI were clear that it was subject to an independent audit, and that the team would be forced to adhere to stricter operational requirements for the coming season.
The UCI confirmed Friday that the University of Lausanne (ISSUL), the body in charge of the independent review of Astana’s conduct, had reported back to the sport’s governing body over Astana’s “anti-doping culture, policies, structures and management systems.”
“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it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn,” read a statement from the UCI's communications department.
“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.”
As well as this, the UCI state that Italian anti-doping authorities have handed over a section of evidence from the Padova doping investigation, with some of the evidence linked to members of the Astana team, although it does not state which riders or staff are involved.
“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.”
Drinking time at the last chance saloon?
When Astana were awarded their WorldTour licence in December of 2014 the UCI confirmed that there were strings attached, most importantly the ISSUL’s audit of the Kazak team. Cookson, at the time, confirmed that the initial Licence Commission’s decision came before the Padova investigation details had been handed over, suggesting that the Italian investigation has been crucial in the ISSUL’s report and the UCI’s announcement today.
“The case of the Astana Pro Team ... remains a very serious situation for our sport given the number of doping cases,” said Cookson at the time.
“We shall be following the situation very closely and are awaiting to review the results of the audit. Meanwhile, the team will have to comply with the two requirements imposed by the Licence Commission. The combined effect of this is that the Astana Pro Team can be considered very much to be on probation."
That probation appears to over, although the UCI have not confirmed if the team can race while the Licence Commission conveys to discuss the case.
When awarding the initial licence the UCI added 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 Padova case, it "would prompt a referral to the Licence Commission to envisage, if necessary, the withdrawal of the licence."
Astana agreed to be audited by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne.
Cookson later added that Astana’s case raised no question marks over Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France win in 2014 but he was disappointed that general manager Alexandre Vinokourov had not talked to CIRC.
“I think it's absolutely essential that Vinokourov and all others with history of doping problems go and talk to CIRC and do so as quickly as possible. Time is running out. I've said on a number of occasions that it's absolutely vital. If people want reconciliation we have to have truth first."