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Although the season is already in its fourth month and the Giro d’Italia is drawing ever-closer, there are suggestions that a final resolution in the Astana case may still be some time away.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the expected hearing scheduled for Friday has been moved to Thursday and will take place in Geneva. However rather than a quick decision being made, the Italian newspaper states that a further wait is likely to happen.
La Gazzetta presents two scenarios. The first is that the UCI’s Licence Commission will decide to have a new discovery phase in order to allow more information to be brought forward. Alternatively, it envisages the announcement of a definitive date for the final decision.
The team is 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.
Davidenok had been racing with the WorldTour team as a stagiaire.
The WorldTour squad was initially given a probational WorldTour licence, but on a series of conditions.
Once of those was that the team would be independently audited by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) to determine “to what extent the team and or/its management is responsible of the recent events.”
It said that the audit would also seek to “assess the team’s internal structures, culture and management systems to understand whether these are adequate to ensure that the highest ethical standards are upheld.”
On February 26 the UCI said that, upon studying the results of that inquiry, it had decided to ask its Licence Commission to strip the team of its WorldTour licence.
“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it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn,” it stated then.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 Astana team has said that any decision to strip the team of its licence would be immediately appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.