Brian Cookson has defended the decision of the UCI’s Licence Commission to award the Kazakh team a WorldTour licence for 2015, insisting that the correct procedures have to be followed. The UCI president, who warned the Kazakh team earlier this week that it is “on probation,” also called on Astana’s sponsors and suppliers to help ensure that it stays free of doping.
The UCI and Cookson, who had no say in the decision which was made by the independent, four-member commission, came under widespread criticism on social media for permitting Astana to race in the top tier of the sport next season despite the team being involved in a series of doping scandals in recent months.
There are conditions attached however. The granting of the licence requires Astana’s systems and procedures to be independently audited, and it was also made clear that any further doping offences will result in a further review of the status of the team.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Cookson said: “This is not just a matter for the UCI. We have all got our responsibilities here: the teams, Astana, the national federation of Kazakhstan, the sponsors, the funders, the suppliers of the team.
“The reputational damage that is being done to them is surely substantial, so we have all got to step up to the plate here.
“We are doing our bit, but we need other people to take their responsibility as well, so I am calling on the management of Astana to take their responsibilities very seriously."
Cookson insisted that the Licence Commission and the UCI had to follow procedure in making its decision.
He said: “On social media there is a lot of kneejerk reaction and I understand that feeling, but I ask people to understand that what we do has to be legally defensible.
“It’s not just a question of me ‘growing balls’ or any other of the various comments that have been thrown around. It’s a question of what we can make stick.
“Nobody would thank us if we made a judgment that was too hasty and not sustainable and defensible legally.
“I am determined that we do deal with this situation under the UCI rules, under the WADA code and under the legal constraints that would see us have to defend the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport or anywhere else.
“This might feel like a step backwards, but once you start making things up as you go along and once you start applying rules flexibly, I think that is a recipe for disaster.”
The award of the licence does not take any account of the contents of a dossier prepared by magistrates in Padua that contains allegations against a number of past and present Astana riders.
It is also reported to contain photographs of the banned doctor Michele Ferrari at a training camp held by the team in November last year, but Cookson said the UCI had yet to receive the file from CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee.
"We have asked for it as quickly as we could and we have been chasing it up again today. I would hope that they would want to help us, but we will have to wait and see," he said.
“Once that comes, our lawyers will have a quick review of it and see what information might be appropriate to the Astana situation.
“As and when that has been done, we will make a decision on referring that back to the Licence Commission. That could be any time in the next couple of weeks, or a bit longer if we don’t get the information from CONI,” he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.