Tour de France Winner’s Team Faces Anti-Doping Ban on Audit

The Astana cycling team, which features Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, should lose its racing license after an audit of the squad’s anti-doping policy, the sport’s ruling body said.

There is “compelling evidence” that the Kazakhstan-based team deserves to be removed from the top tier of racing, the Union Cycliste Internationale said in an e-mailed statement, without giving details. The UCI’s license commission will make a final decision, the governing body said.

If Astana loses the license, it would stop Nibali defending his title unless he switches teams or in the unlikely event Tour de France organizers give Astana a wildcard entry.

The audit by the Institute of Sports Sciences at the University of Lausanne found “a big difference” between evidence Astana presented to the commission in December and reality, the UCI said.

It’s a setback for cycling, which is trying to emerge from decades of doping. Last year, the UCI commissioned a report into the sport’s culture and how Lance Armstrong used drugs and blood doping to cheat his way to seven Tour de France titles.

Armstrong rode for Astana in 2009 during a two-year comeback. There is no evidence of Nibali, who is Italian, doping during his career.

UCI president Brian Cookson said the report into cycling’s past will be “uncomfortable reading,” the British Broadcasting Corp. reported on Feb. 21.

Previous Cases

In December, the UCI license commission granted Astana a World Tour license for 2015 even after several doping cases involving its riders.

Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, brothers from Kazakhstan, tested positive for stamina-boosting drug erythropoietin, or EPO, last year. Three riders on Astana’s second-tier team have also had positive drug tests.

The team has been bankrolled by Kazakhstan since 2006, and is named for the country’s capital.

Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France. Alberto Contador failed a drug test in winning the 2010 Tour with the team and was stripped of the title.

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