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McQuaid: Astana license under scrutiny

Revocation would free Contador from his contract

By Justin Davis – Agence France Presse

Vino' may be No.1 in the hearts of Kazakh fans, but the UCI licensing commission isn't feeling all warm and fuzzy about him.

Vino’ may be No.1 in the hearts of Kazakh fans, but the UCI licensing commission isn’t feeling all warm and fuzzy about him.

Photo: Agence France Presse – file photo

The cycling future of the Astana team, whose star rider is Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, could be in doubt, UCI president Pat McQuaid said Saturday.

Astana, whose ProTour license is currently under review, is hoping to impress the UCI licensing commission to avoid the revocation of the final year of its ProTour status.

However, McQuaid said there were several areas of concern.

“Representatives of Astana met the licensing commission earlier this week and from what I can gather from that meeting it does not look overly optimistic,” McQuaid said. “There is a possibility the license could be taken from Astana.”

The Kazakh-backed team has had a torrid year prior to Contador’s Tour de France triumph in July.

The team had been under UCI pressure because of months of unpaid salaries at the start of the year, leaving a cloud over their Tour de France participation.

After Contador’s victory, his teammate Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour champion, promptly quit to start the new RadioShack, which will be managed next year by Astana’s former manager Johan Bruyneel.

Contador has also been trying to leave Astana, but faced with losing another top star they insist he has to honor the one year which remains on his contract.

However reports suggest the return of Alexander Vinokourov into the team, first as a rider and possibly as manager, following his two-year doping ban, are not winning the team many votes among UCI officials.

If Astana fails to impress the commission with a case that takes into account financial guarantees as well as their past record concerning ethics and doping, they could lose out, handing Contador a get-out-of-jail card.

“We’ve had discussions with Contador, and from a legal perspective he knows that if the team gets a license he will still have to race for them through 2010,” McQuaid noted. “But if they don’t, he will be free to move elsewhere.”

Despite appearing pessimistic over Astana’s chances, the UCI chief said he travelled to Kazakhstan where he met with top officials.

McQuaid said that a top businessman from the country is ready to step in to guarantee the team’s financial longevity.

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