Katusha fires rocket at UCI over WorldTour exclusion - legal action not ruled out
Russians express "surprise" at UCI decision and vow to fight to get their place back
In a strongly worded statement Team Katusha has expressed bewilderment and surprise at the UCI's decision to deny it a WorldTour place for 2013 and the Russian team has vowed to use "all possible civilized instruments and methods, including going to court" to regain its place in cycling's premier competition.
In a statement responding to the UCI decision the Russian team said that its management would "investigate thoroughly this incident" so that an explanation could be given to the team's riders and so that the UCI's decision to exclude them could be challenged in court.
Katusha's statement makes much of the fact that the team that finished second in the UCI world rankings, and which has the top ranked rider has been excluded from the top level of the sport - when Katusha's management say they had already been assured by the UCI that the team met all the criteria needed for the WorldTour licence to be renewed.
Aside from their public statement (reproduced in full below) Katusha has also expressed its surprise and outrage directly to the UCI. In a letter to the UCI leaked to the INRNG blog Katusha's management inform cycling's governing body that the UCI Licensing Commission's decision to deny the Russian team WorldTour registration for the 2013 season is "categorically contested and refused by Katusha".
The letter goes on to give Katusha's view of how the licensing process had gone prior to the refusal to renew stating that the UCI had assured the team last month that the only one the licensing requirements with which it did not comply was the financial one "but all other criteria effectively complied with the UCI requirements".
Furthermore, says the Katusha letter, on the 22nd of November the Ernst and Young representative appointed by the UCI to oversee the financial aspects of the licensing process that the financial information supplied by the Russian team was "unconditionally accepted and sufficient".
The omission of Katusha from the WorldTour means that, assuming it is granted a Professional Continental licence, the team backed by Russian billionaire Igor Makarov, who sits on the UCI Management Committee, it will need to rely on wild card invites to be able to take part in cycling’s biggest races
Should the Russians make good on their threat to go to court to win their WorldTour place back the UCI and it's premier competition will have entered uncharted territory. One irony of the situation is that any court case would be a test of each organisation's financial clout. If the UCI wanted to find out how much money the Russians really have this could prove a painful way of doing so. The UCI is already embroiled in legal action with the Irish journalist Paul Kimmage - and if historical precedent is anything to go by fighting the Russians when you are also engaged in battle on another front is usually a recipe for disaster.
Metaphorically parking its T-72s on the lawn outside the UCI’s Swiss headquarters, the team, whose name derives from the title heroine of a Russian World War 2 song, which also had a rocket launcher named after it, concluded its statement with the words: “Katusha is ready to fight and is stronger than ever.”
Official statement of Katusha Team
At present moment Katusha Team has no information regarding the reasons for the decision of the UCI to reject the request from the team for registration in first division. Team management, riders and staff are extremely surprised by the lack of justification for such a decision made by the UCI. Thus earlier the team, which possesses rider №1 in the world and has finished the season in second place in the UCI World Tour ranking, was informed that it satisfies all possible criteria required for participation in the first division. In fact the only Russian team, where the majority of riders are Russian citizens, has been excluded from participation in races of the World Tour. Thus, this decision of the UCI has suspended Russiaas a country from participation in cycling competitions of the highest level.
The management of Katusha Team, its riders and staff are surprised by such a quick change of decision, lack of coordination inside the UCI press-service and a complete absence of reasons for such a fast decision.
The UCI which has been established in order to protect the interests of the riders worldwide, on the contrary by its actions completely violates the canons of sports ethics and causes irreparable moral and psychological harm to the athletes before the start of the new season, and the delay in explaining the reasons of the decisions only shows the lack of the significance of these reasons.
In the nearest future the management of the Russian team Katusha intends to investigate thoroughly this incident, first of all in order to give all possible explanations to the riders and staff of the team, as well as to choose a future strategy.
In addition, the Katusha Team is not retreating from the plans that have been made for the next season and is preparing for the official team presentation, which is scheduled for mid-December 2012 inItaly.
The Russian team intends to defend its interests with the help of all possible civilized instruments and methods, including going to court.
Katusha is ready to fight and is stronger than ever.