Katusha has won its appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the decision late last year of the UCI's Licence Commission not to award it a UCI WorldTour licence for the 2013 season. The full reasons behind the CAS decision will be relaeased in the coming weeks, but the effect is that Katusha will be registered as a WorldTour team for this season.
Reacting to the news, team owner Igor Makorov, the energy billionaire who is also president of the Russian Cycling Federation and a member of the UCI's management board, said: "We can confidently say, that the whole world’s sports community followed the situation of Katusha Team during the last weeks.
"Katusha Team received a lot of sympathy and support out of different circles: sports officials and the trustees of the Russian Global Cycling Project as well as famous athletes, mass-media and fans.
"On behalf of both, Katusha Team and the whole Project I would like to express our deep gratefulness to all, who sincerely empathized, hoped and believed that the justice will be restored!
"This CAS decision is absolutely objective and justified. This proves once again the impartiality of the supreme juridical body of the world of sports."
In a brief press release issued this morning, the giverning body said: "The UCI will now evaluate the consequences of this ruling and will communicate further in coming days, as soon as such evaluation has taken place."
The Russian team's readmission to the WorldTour will have a knock-on effect, with the UCI having previously told road.cc that in the event of Katusha winning at CAS, several teams that had already been granted a WorldTour licence would have to have their applications scrutinised again, since there can only be 18 WorldTour teams.
However, that could potentially result in legal action on the part of whichever team was forced to drop out, particularly more than a month into the season.
The decision also has ramifications for race organisers. Last month, Katusha failed to get a wild card entry for the Giro d'Italia, but with its WorldTour status regained, it has a right, as well as an obligation, to participate in all WorldTour races.
While it was given wild card entry to Milan-Sanremo and, later in the season, the Giro d'Italia, it also missed out on a place at Tirreno-Adriatico, and reacting to news of the CAS decision on Twitter, Michele Acquarone of organisers RCS Sport said "So, @katushacycling is back. And now? What a big mess! In three weeks we are supposed to run the @TirrenAdriatico..."
There has been speculation in recent days that Jouaquim Rodriguez, who finished the 2012 season as the world's number-one ranked rider, might head to Lampre with several team mates if Katusha lost its appeal. That prospect appears to have receded with today's decision.
The Licence Commission had made the shock decision not to award Katusha a WorldTour licence on what the Russian team initially claimed were financial grounds, although the UCI has confirmed that ethical reasons lay behind it.
While the Licence Commission is independent of the UCI's management, today's CAS decision will be widely viewed as a further dent in the credibility of the governing body.
Today's statement from CAS confirming its decision says, in full:
Lausanne, 15 February 2013 - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld the appeal filed by Katusha Management SA (Katusha) against the International Cycling Union (UCI) in relation to Katusha’s application for a license to participate in the UCI World Tour 2013 season.
Further to an investigation by the Auditor appointed by the UCI, the UCI Licensing Commission issued a decision on 10 December 2012 in which it refused Katusha’s application for the UCI World Tour 2013 season. On 20 December 2012, Katusha filed an appeal at the CAS against such decision requesting that it be set aside and that Katusha be registered as a UCI ProTeam for the 2013 season. On 14 January 2013, the UCI has granted the Continental licence to the team.
A CAS hearing was held on 8 February 2013 during which the parties and their representatives were heard by the CAS Panel in charge of this matter: Professor Luigi Fumagalli (Italy), President of the Panel, Mr Luc Argand (Switzerland) and Mr Michele Bernasconi (Switzerland).
In its deliberations following the hearing, the CAS Panel did not reach the same conclusions as the UCI Licensing Commission and decided to uphold the appeal. According to the CAS decision, the application of Katusha Management SA to be registered as a UCI ProTeam for the season 2013 of the UCI World Tour is granted.
In view of the urgency of the matter, the Panel has issued its decision today, without the grounds, which will be issued in writing in a few weeks.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.