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Astana UCI Licence Commission hearing set for 2 April

Future of Kazakh team's WorldTour place to be determined early next month...

The UCI’s Licence Commission will meet in Geneva on Thursday 2 April to determine whether Astana, Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali’s team, should be allowed to keep its WorldTour licence, reports French newspaper Le Monde.

Last month, world cycling’s governing body asked the Licence Commission, which operates independently of it, to withdraw Astana’s licence after an audit into the Kazakh team’s management and anti-doping procedures had been completed by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL).

The audit was conducted as one of the conditions of Astana being awarded a WorldTour licence for 2015 after two of its riders, the brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, tested positive for EPO last year. Three members of its UCI Continental development team also failed anti-doping controls during 2014.

When Astana was awarded the licence in December, UCI president Brian Cookson made it clear that Alexander Vinokourov’s outfit was “on probation,” and the ISSUL audit found “a big difference between the policies and structures that the team presented to the Licence Commission in December and the reality on the ground."

Information about Astana was also provided to the UCI by law enforcement officials in Italy, who have been conducting a long-term investigation based in Padua into doping in professional cycling.

Le Monde says that Astana had until yesterday to lodge its defence with the Licence Commission, which comprises four members and is chaired by Pierre Zapelli, formerly a chair of the Swiss Federal Court.

Should the Licence Commission decide to withdraw Astana’s licence, the team can request one at UCI Professional Continental level – provided it satisfies licensing requirements – and is almost certain to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Two years ago, Russian team Katusha successfully appealed to the CAS to secure a WorldTour licence after the Licence Commission had refused to grant it one, resulting in embarrassment for the UCI and then president, Pat McQuaid.

But in Astana’s case, Cookson has insisted that he is prepared to take the process all the way, saying in December: “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."

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.

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