The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s main governing body, will request that the Astana Pro Team license be withdrawn, according to a statement published Friday on the organization’s website.
As Outside wrote in December, Astana was left off the initial list of the year’s World Tour teams after riders on both Astana’s development and top-tier squads tested positive for doping. The team’s registration was subsequently ratified by the License Commission, which surprised some experts who suspected the team had pursued lax and inadequate anti-doping policies.
As a condition of granting Astana the license, the UCI commissioned an audit of the team, which was handled by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL). The intention was to determine what role, if any, the team’s leadership played in doping violations by riders Maxim Iglinskiy, Valentin Iglinskiy, and Ilya Davidenok. On Friday, the UCI commented on the findings of the ISSUL audit.
“The ISSUL was asked 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,” the statement reads. “After careful review of this extensive report, the UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the License Commission … and request the Astana Pro Team license be withdrawn.”
Should the License Commission follow the UCI’s recommendation, it will be impossible for Astana to be considered as a World Tour team. Astana could, however, still receive a UCI Pro Continental license, meaning the team may still be able to compete at many major races, seeking entrance into World Tour competitions through a wildcard system. The prospect of losing a guaranteed spot on the grand tours is particularly harrowing for Astana team member Vincenzo Nibali, who won the 2014 Tour de France, as Outside reported in July.
On Friday morning, Astana’s official response was brief. “We are compelled to respect the decision pending due process from the Independent License Commission,” Astana spokesperson Chris Baldwin told VeloNews.