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Having either deservedly kept its licence or dodged a bullet, depending on your viewpoint, the Astana team has said that it will abide by the conditions set by the UCI’s Licence Commission in return for the squad being able to keep its WorldTour licence.
“Astana Pro Team is grateful to the License Commission for the opportunity to present the team’s commitment to observing the UCI’s ethical criteria,” it said in a brief statement issued approximately two hours after the UCI announced the news.
“Astana Pro Team is committed to respecting all measures recommended by ISSUL, and to collaborate in the implementation of further measures that enhance our procedures above and beyond the UCI’s minimum requirements.
“Our focus now returns to racing.”
The Kazakh team had been under serious scrutiny following a spate of positives tests last year. The brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy both tested positive for EPO, while the Astana Continental team riders Ilya Davidenok, Artur Fedosseyev and Victor Okishev tested positive for anabolic androgenic steroids.
On February 26 the UCI had said that it wanted the team to lose its place in the WorldTour. “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it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn,” it stated then.
“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.
“In addition, the Italian authorities have provided the UCI with the sections of the Padova investigation which it has been authorized to share. As some evidence concerns Astana Pro Team members, the file has been passed to the Licence Commission as part of this referral.”
However, despite those concerns, the team will now be able to race on. A condition of doing so is what the UCI termed strict monitoring of the conditions laid down. This will be carried out “on the basis of reports transmitted by ISSUL to the Licence Commission.”
The UCI said that the Licence Commission would be able to reopen the proceedings if the team either fails to respect one or more of the conditions imposed or if new elements come to light.
It also said that the commission’s full reasoned decision would be released at a later point.
Commenting on the decision, the Velon group – which comprises eleven of the 17 WorldTour teams, but not Astana, said the matter was between that squad plus the UCI. However it joined a chorus looking for a complete explanation.
“We would encourage the Licence Commission to make its reasoning publically available in order to ensure there is transparency for the fans and everyone involved in the sport,” it said.
“We want to help to move the sport forward on anti-doping and support a strong position, which we know the UCI wishes to take, in this crucial area for our sport.
“We support robust testing procedures and want to ensure these are both rigorous and universally applied in order to create more credible racing and long-term financial stability.”