UCI calls for withdrawal of Astana license over doping

AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) The Astana team of Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali appears set to lose its license to compete this year, at the request of the UCI.

An audit by the Institute of Sport Sciences at the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) into Astana's management of anti-doping measures found ''a big difference'' between what the team was doing and what it promised to do, world cycling's governing body said on Friday.

The UCI said there were ''compelling grounds'' to refer the issue to the licensing commission, and request that Kazakhstan government-backed Astana be stripped of its Pro Team license, which guarantees entry to top stage races and one-day classics.

Astana was awarded a license in December, but only on probation after five senior and development squad riders, including brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, were caught doping with EPO and steroids since August.

''The UCI considers that the ISSUL audit has, among other things, revealed a big difference between the policies and structures that the team presented to the license commission in December, and the reality on the ground,'' the UCI said in a statement.

Astana said in a statement it ''will consult with its attorneys to prepare documents and testimony'' to present to the independent commission.

The team can appeal any license ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and also request that sanctions are frozen while the case is processed. Astana could potentially race while awaiting the verdict, and then have all its results wiped if CAS rules in favor of the UCI.

In addition to the audit by the Swiss university, Italian authorities in charge of the Padua doping investigation provided the UCI with ''evidence'' concerning some Astana riders.

''The file has been passed to the license commission as part of this referral,'' the UCI said.

In December, investigators sent a 550-page file detailing allegations of banned physician Michele Ferrari's continued influence on cyclists to the Italian Olympic Committee. Nibali's name does not appear in the dossier.

The same four-year-old investigation played a role in the 2012 report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that detailed doping by Lance Armstrong, and led to him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, investigators photographed Ferrari meeting with members of Astana outside the team's training camp hotel one night in November 2013.

Astana manager Alexandre Vinokourov is a former Ferrari client, who served a two-year doping ban before winning the 2012 London Olympics road race.

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