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UCI requests CONI documents as Astana case heats up

Brian Cookson tells VeloNews the cycling governing body wants to see Italian court documents before issuing Astana a 2015 racing license

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The UCI wants a closer look at recent revelations that notorious doping doctor Michele Ferrari might have had links to Astana before it rules on whether to issue the team a racing license for 2015.

UCI president Cookson confirmed to VeloNews that cycling’s governing body has made a request to Italian authorities to review documents relating to the Padua doping investigation in light of recent revelations in the Italian media that Ferrari might have worked with Astana.

“We understand there is a large set of documents from the magistrate, and we have asked CONI to share those with us,” Cookson told VeloNews on Tuesday. “We cannot act upon reports in the media. It’s important that we see the actual documents themselves.”

The UCI’s License Commission is expected to reveal the fate of Astana’s racing license by Wednesday, but Cookson said it would take new allegations “into consideration” before making a final decision.

“These new revelations and allegations are giving us pause for thought, and we might have to continue to look at the situation,” Cookson continued. “I haven’t seen what the License Commission has recommended yet, but what they did has not taken into consideration recent events.”

The UCI’s License Commission is expected to give its final recommendation on Astana’s future by tomorrow. On December 4, the Kazakh-backed team, along with Europcar, was left off a list of WorldTour teams for 2015, despite already having a valid license.

Over the weekend, however, Italian media set off shockwaves after reporting that Ferrari attended the team’s training camp in November, 2013, something that Ferrari vehemently denied.

More ominous are court documents that were released dating back to an investigation in 2007 linking Ferrari to dozens of top Italian pros and teams. Some riders connected to Astana, including general manager Alexander Vinokourov, are former Ferrari clients.

The growing media hysteria around the Astana license presents Cookson with his most complicated situation since being elected as UCI president in September 2013.

Astana won the Tour de France in 2014 with Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali, but has since become engulfed in a growing scandal, with two WorldTour riders and three from Astana’s development squad testing positive for doping infractions, casting a pall over the entire organization.

Cookson spoke to VeloNews via telephone while he was in Monte Carlo and said he would return to UCI headquarters to meet with UCI staff on Wednesday to review the License Commission recommendation, and consider the latest developments. He said the UCI would reveal something by Wednesday, but hinted it might need more time.

“It’s very important that we give this due process, and do things the right way,” Cookson continued. “It’s not a question if Cookson has the balls to deal with this. We have to consider what is legally viable, and defensible, and that we carry it through due process.”

Cookson said the UCI wants to avoid “knee-jerk reactions” to the media allegations, and insisted that it will act with firmness and balance.

He also said the UCI wants to avoid a similar situation in 2012, when Katusha was denied a racing license only to see that decision overturned in a challenge to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“CAS threw out that case, and we don’t want to get into a situation like that,” Cookson said. “We are determined to take firm action. It’s absolutely vital that we handle things in the right way, with integrity, with the right legal support, and ensure that whatever decisions taken are absolutely defensible.

“It’s an important matter. It’s a big disappointment to everyone,” Cookson continued. “The worry I’ve got is that we have three riders on the development, now we have five Kazakh riders. It’s an issue that the Kazakhs are as anxious to resolve as the UCI is.”