UCI president Brian Cookson has said that he will take action on Astana’s WorldTour licence if evidence compromising the team emerges from the Padova-based doping investigation, warning that “the game isn’t over.”
Despite a recent run of positive tests, Astana’s 2015 WorldTour registration was ratified ten days ago, pending an audit of their practices by the University of Lausanne. The UCI is also awaiting receipt of a 550-page dossier from the Padova investigation, which is centred on the activities of the banned Dr. Michele Ferrari. Reports in the Italian press earlier this month claimed that the Astana team was implicated in the inquiry.
“I wasn’t able to hide my disappointment on the day of the designation of the WorldTour licences,” Cookson told Gazzetta dello Sport. “For me, it was very frustrating, but we had to work with legal tools and I had to accept that. But the game isn’t over. I’m still determined to act, professionally and legally, once the dossier from Padova has been received and submitted to the Licence Commission.”
While Cookson stressed that he saw “no reason to have any suspicions” about the performances of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, he said that there were concerns over others on the Astana team and management.
“The problem is that in his Astana team there are people with less desirable histories, and so I’m calling on everyone to take their responsibilities: team managers, national federations, competitors and suppliers,” he said.
At the Tour de France in July, Cookson called on Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov to provide testimony to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission, but the Kazakh told Cyclingnews in October that he had not done so. Cookson is hopeful that CIRC’s final report will allow for stricter guidelines on suitable team managers, although he suggested that any new regulation would be difficult to apply retroactively.
“The new anti-doping code presents much stronger measures on the ethical side and tells us whether these people can stay working in cycling,” Cookson said, when asked about Vinokourov’s position as manager. “By the end of February, we’ll have the recommendations from CIRC, including on having fit and proper persons in charge of teams. But we also have to pay attention to labour laws.”
Cookson also spoke to Gazzetta about the reforms of the UCI calendar, which are due to be enacted in 2017, and he hinted about the prospect of reducing the length of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España or shifting their dates.
“There’s already a general agreement to limit the number of race days per year for riders and to avoid clashes of dates,” he said. “Everybody says yes, but then everybody stays in their own positions. In this discussion with organisers and teams, it would help if the Giro and Vuelta were more flexible. Cycling isn’t F1. I’m not [Bernie] Ecclestone. Or [FIFA president Sep] Blatter. From 2017, the reforms won’t be implemented as a big bang, but as an evolution.”