March 07, 2015

ROME (AP) Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali believes the UCI's request to withdraw the WorldTour license of his Astana team following a string of doping cases is a political move.

''My opinion is that it's all about politics. It's not anything to do with the riders,'' Nibali told Italian state TV Rai before the Strade Bianche Eroica race on Saturday in Tuscany.

''We've done a lot as riders and explained a lot. I'm not worried, but if our license is suspended we'll have to go and ask for invitations to races. My professionalism isn't under discussion.''

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 committed to doing against doping, and what's actually happening, world cycling's governing body announced last week.

The UCI said there were ''compelling grounds'' to request that Kazakhstan government-backed Astana be stripped of its license.

Astana received a probationary license in December, after five senior and development squad riders were caught doping with EPO and steroids since August.

Without a WorldTour license, Astana's admission to major races such as the Tour and Giro d'Italia would depend on invitations from race organizers.

''The race organizers know how dedicated we are in training and how many sacrifices we make at the races,'' Nibali said. ''Their opinion will count a lot. If we lost our license we can only hope to be invited to the races by the different organizers. But that's the worst case scenario.''

Czech rider Zdenek Stybar won the Eroica. Nibali finished 40th, 7:35 behind.

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