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UCI withholds Astana WorldTour license — for now

In a Thursday announcement, UCI confirms 16 WorldTour teams, but says that Astana's license is still under review due to doping concerns

Five doping cases this offseason may cost the Astana program hugely, as the team was left off the UCI’s initial list of WorldTour teams, announced Wednesday.

Cycling’s governing body is in the process of confirming the 18 WorldTour teams for next season and beyond. It left both Astana and Europcar off the list and will decide on those two teams by December 10.

The Tour de France-winning Astana squad already had a license for 2015, but the UCI asked its license committee to review the team due to to “serious concerns” stemming from recent doping positives. If the UCI sticks to what may be a precedent-setting case in 2012, it could slap Astana with a probationary license and a warning.

In 2012, Katusha was denied a license due to four PED positives between 2009 and 2012, but that ruling was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since Nibali’s Tour win, the team has been in headlines for the wrong reasons. One of his helpers at the Tour, Maxim Iglinskiy failed a test for EPO on August 1. Iglinskiy’s brother, Valentin also failed a test for the drug in the same fortnight. Afterward, three riders for Astana’s third-division feeder team — Ilya Davidenok, Victor Okishev, and Artur Fedosseyev — failed anti-doping tests for steroids.

Nibali has defended the program, drawing a line between the pro team and lower ranks. There is no connection and no problem,” he told VeloNews.

Astana recently announced it would drop the curtains on the Continental team after the third doping positive. That team was already suspended from competition and its manager fired.

“These young guys are crazy if they don’t realize doping has no place in cycling,” Vinokourov told La Gazzetta during a team camp in Italy. “I want this to be a ‘warning shot’ to our federation. The Kazakh federation needs to do more controls.”

All told, four teams are linked to the Kazakh capital and team boss Alexandre Vinokourov: the WorldTour team, the women’s team, and two third-division teams, Astana and Vino4Ever.

The UCI also announced 17 Pro Continental teams for 2015, including U.S. teams UnitedHealthcare and Novo Nordisk; Yellow Fluo (Italy) and Cult Energy (Denmark) are still under review.

Europcar’s license is still under review due to what is reported by Sud Ouest to be a lack of funding, as the team is slated to part with its sponsor at the end of 2015

VeloNews’ Andrew Hood and Gregor Brown contributed to this report.