UCI defers decision on Astana and Europcar WorldTour registration

The UCI has announced the teams registered and awarded licences for the 2015 WorldTour but deferred a final decision on the position of the Astana and Europcar teams due to financial and ethical questions.

A final verdict on the status of the two teams is expected before Wednesday December 10, after the UCI Licence Commission considers extra documentation recently supplied by the teams.

All the other 16 teams that applied for WorldTour registration for the 2015 season have been given a place, including the Swiss IAM Cycling team, which steps up from Professional Continental status. All the teams are automatically invited to ride all the WorldTour races, including the Tour de France. The UCI also confirmed the names of the Professional Continental teams registered for 2015. A decision on the registration of the Yellow Flou (Neri Sottoli) and Cult Energy Pro Cycling teams will be announced on December 10.

The UCI announced the teams after the first day of the WorldTour seminar in Montreux, Switzerland. The two-day meeting is expected to be decisive for shaping the major reforms to the WorldTour that are scheduled to come into force in 2017.

Europcar team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau admitted on December 2 that he was struggling to find the final 5% of the team's budget. Europcar has already announced it will end its sponsorship of the team at the end of 2015. If Europcar fails to secure registration in the 2015 WorldTour, the French team will drop down to Professional Continental level and so need to secure a wild card invitation to the Tour de France.

Astana and Vinokourov under scrutiny after doping cases

The situation of the Astana team and its chances of securing WorldTour registration are far more complex after the numerous doping sandals to hit the Kazakhstani team. In the space of three months, it was revealed that two riders from the WorldTour team – Maxim and Valentin Iglinsky – had returned positive tests for EPO, while three members of the Continental squad – llya Davidenok, Viktor Okishev and Artur Fedosseyev – tested positive for steroids.

Astana was called before the UCI Licence Commission for a full review of its management and anti-doping policies following a recent series of positive tests on the team and a hearing took place in November 6. The Astana WorldTour team responded to the Iglinsky positives by suspending itself from the Tour of Beijing, as per the regulations of voluntary body the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) and last week the Kazakh Cycling Federation announced the suspension of the Continental team and the sacking of lead directeur sportif Dmitri Sedoun.

Team manager Alexandre Vinokourov's role and his own past are also under scrutiny. He was caught for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France and UCI President Brian Cookson has called on him and Bjarne Riis of Tinkoff-Saxo to speak to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), which is investigating doping in the sport.

Last week Vincenzo Nibali told Cyclingnews he was confident that Astana would be given a place in the 2015 WorldTour. However the status of the team is now sub-judice and depends Vinokourov and Astana convincing the Licence Commission that the team is serious about its internal anti-doping procedures.

If the Licence Commission opts not to assign a WorldTour licence to Astana next week, the Kazakhstani squad would be able to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as Katusha did successfully when it was initially denied a WorldTour berth for the 2013 season.

In the event of an unsuccessful appeal to CAS and registration as a Professional Continental team, Astana would be forced to seek wildcard invitations to major events in 2015. Depending on the validity of their contracts with Astana, riders could be free to join other teams to ensure they ride in the WorldTour.

Confirmed 2015 WorldTour teams:
Ag2r La Mondiale, BMC Racing Team, Cannondale-Garmin, Etixx-QuickStep, FDJ, Giant-Alpecin, IAM Cycling, Katusha, Lampre-Merida, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, Orica GreenEdge, Team Sky, Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, Tinkoff Saxo, Trek Factory Racing.

Confirmed 2015 Pro Continental teams:
Androni Giocattoli (Italy), Bardiani CSF (Italy), Bora-Argon 18 (Germany), Bretagne-Seche Environnement (France), Caja Rural-Seguros Rga (Spain), CCC Sprandi Polkowice (Poland), Cofidis, Solutions Credits (France), Colombia (Colombia), Drapac Professional Cycling (Australia), MTN-Qhubeka (South Africa), Nippo-Vini Fantini (Italy), Team Roompot (Netherlands), Rusvelo (Russia), Team Novo Nordisk (USA), Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise (Belgium), UnitedHealthcare (USA), Wanty-Groupe Gobert (Belgium).

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