Team Astana has responded to the International Cycling Union’s request to strip them of their elite status, saying it may take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

The International Cycling Union (UCI) on Friday announced that it had requested its licencing commission strip Astana of their status after an investigation into its policies and structures, including anti-doping.

Astana Pro Team has received confirmation from the Union Cycliste Internationale of their receipt of results from the recent audit by the Institute of Sport and Science at the University of Lausanne, and the subsequent transfer of those results to the Independent Licence Commission. Astana Pro Team will consult with its attorneys to prepare documents and testimony before the Independent License Commission. Astana Pro Team will reserve its rights pending due process at the Independent License Commission to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport following the scheduled procedure.

Kazakhstan based Astana, which includes Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, were only granted their World Tour licence for 2015 "under probation".

But the UCI released a statement saying it wanted the licence withdrawn after finishing a review of an audit on the Astana team which was undertaken by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL).

"After careful review of this extensive report, the UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn," the statement said.

The World Tour licence guarantees its holder direct participation in the top races, including the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix and Giro d'Italia.

Several Astana linked riders failed anti-doping tests last season. The UCI agreed to grant the team a licence but only on the condition that it underwent an independent audit.

"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 Licence Commission in December and the reality on the ground," the UCI said.

The UCI said that Italian authorities had provided the sections of the Padova investigation which it was authorised to share.

"For the sake of due process, the UCI is not in a position to comment further on the content of the audit report, nor the Padova investigation, until the Licence Commission has assessed the situation and rendered its decision," it said.

"But this decision to refer the matter to the Licence Commission was reached taking all circumstances and potential consequences into consideration."

If Astana lose their world tour licence the team could be relegated to the sport's second tier and riders may be free to leave.

Riders can be hired by other WorldTour teams providing they do not end up with more than the maximum permitted, 28, 29 or 30 depending on the number of riders in their first or second years as professionals.

It would also mean that Astana's only chance to ride in the Tour de France would be to get an invitation which is highly unlikely in the circumstances.