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Although the UCI stated on February 26 that it was requesting its Licence Commission to formally withdraw the Astana team’s WorldTour licence, that commission has now decided that the team should be able to retain its slot in the top rung of cycling, albeit with conditions.
That commission today held a hearing with representatives from both the team and the UCI, as well as representatives from the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL).
The latter had been asked to carry out a detailed audit of the team last December when the commission gave the squad a probational WorldTour licence .
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.
Despite the UCI’s strong words on the matter in February, the team has now succeeded in keeping its place.
“On the initiative of the Licence Commission, ISSUL were asked to propose special measures which the Team will be obliged to put in place at specific times over the rest of this season,” stated the UCI.
“The team committed to respecting all the measures recommended by ISSUL.”
It said that the Licence Commission had suspended the current proceedings, but implied that there was a chance that the team might yet face further repercussions should any more issues arise.
“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.”
The UCI added that the full reasoned decision will be released at a later date.
The decision has been greeted with despair by some commentators; they have questioned why a squad with a spate of positives and which the UCI had itself said had serious questions hanging over it can continue with a top licence and thus have an automatic invite to the sport’s top events.
On February 26 the UCI had given this reaction to the initial ISSUL review: “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.”
The Padova investigation is a major anti-doping inquiry carried out by Italian authorities and included allegations that some riders across various teams had been working with the banned doctor Michele Ferrari.
It remains to be seen what reasons exist for the team being able to retain its licence; as a result the release of the reasoned decision will be eagerly awaited.
In the meantime, those who wanted to see strong action will be disappointed.