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Cookson defends UCI’s response to doping amid brewing Astana storm

The UCI's licensing commission is due to announce its decision on what to do with Astana's racing license on Wednesday

MONACO (AFP) — The UCI president has protested that cycling is doing more than many of its rivals to tackle doping as it confronts a new dark chapter over the Tour de France winning Astana team.

The UCI licensing commission was slated to announce on Wednesday its recommendation on whether Astana, whose top rider Vincenzo Nibali won this year’s Tour de France, should get a racing license for 2015 after a series of doping failures.

UCI president Brian Cookson said the federation, in making a final decision, will also study new allegations that members of Astana met with banned doping doctor Michele Ferrari last year.

Ferrari denied the claims made by Italian media this week, while Cookson said the allegations were “new and very serious.”

He told a small group of reporters that the allegations had not been considered by the licensing commission when it made its report.

But Cookson said the UCI would have to get the evidence from the Italian Cycling Federation and the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI).

Cookson told the licensing commission to review Astana’s status after brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinksy, and trainee Ilya Davidenok, became the latest failed doping tests suffered by the team.

“We will make a decision in good time through due process,” said the UCI president, who strongly defended cycling’s efforts to counter drug cheats.

“I have always held the view that doping was not a practice solely restricted to the sport of cycling.

“In my view there are two groups of sports: There are those that have a doping problem and are actively trying to do something about it, and I would like to say that we are in a leading position on that.

“And there are those sports that have a doping problem and are still pretty much in denial about it. And sooner or later they are going to have their problems.”

Since the Lance Armstrong scandal and other high-profile cases, the UCI has put all of its drug testing in the hands of an independent agency.

It has also stepped up other monitoring, and its efforts have been backed by the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Craig Reedie.

“Clearly they have the occasional positive test,” said Reedie who gave strong backing to cycling’s independent testing body.

“We support that move and we await their decisions with considerable interest,” the WADA chief said.