Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team avoided having their WorldTour licence withdrawn last month after cycling’s Licence Commission deemed that the punishment would be disproportionate to the doping offences committed by some of their riders last season, it has been revealed.
World governing body UCI had asked for the Kazakhstan-based team’s licence to be withdrawn after reviewing the results of an independent audit into the team, which had been ordered after a number of anti-doping infringements by Astana and their feeder team and which was conducted by the Institute of Sport Sciences at the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) earlier this year.
The Licence Commission announced on April 23 that Astana’s licence would not be withdrawn, and the UCI yesterday published details of their ruling.
In it, the Licence Commission said that the majority of the issues raised by ISSUL could be resolved by reforms within the team, finding evidence that such a process had begun.
The Licence Commission therefore concluded: “At this stage, in view of the modifications that have already taken place, those that are announced, the commitment to adhere to the conditions laid down by the ISSUL with the approval of and under the supervision of the Commission, and the absence of further incidents since autumn 2014, it is found that the sanction of a withdrawal, motivated mainly by facts of the past, would not, as of today, respect the principle of proportionality.”
The Licence Commission suspended, but did not dismiss, the process sparked by the UCI’s request to withdraw Astana’s licence and warned it could be reopened if further issues are raised.
“In the case of non-compliance with the terms of agreement, the ISSUL will notify the commission, which can at any time reopen the procedure of licence withdrawal,” it said.
The decision not to suspend Astana’s licence was seen as a setback for UCI president Brian Cookson and his bid to make a clean break from cycling’s past association with doping.
But Cookson welcomed the Licence Commission’s decision.
“The UCI recognises the constructive approach adopted by the Licence Commission,” he said in a statement. “We are pleased to note that Astana Pro Team has committed to a process of in-depth reforms thanks to this procedure initiated before the Licence Commission. Taking into account that the team will be under the supervision of the ISSUL and monitored by the Licence Commission for the rest of the 2015 season, we are satisfied by this decision which we believe is proportionate.”
When Astana were awarded their 2015 licence in December, conditions were attached after five riders linked to the team failed doping tests in 2014, including brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, a trainee and two members of Astana’s continental development team.
There was no suggestion of any wrong-doing on the part of Tour winner Nibali.
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