Doping cases, management changes and alleged fraud over the last four years led to the UCI’s decision to omit Katusha from the WorldTour, according to the Italian La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
Overnight, the UCI sent out a press release stating its licence commission gave the Russian team official reason for being refused renewal in the WorldTour. It stated: “The Licences Commission today sent Katusha the reasoned decision behind its rejection of the team’s request to be registered in the first division (UCI WorldTour).”
Katusha acknowledged in a statement that it received the commission’s decision, but failed to clarify the reason. It only stated that its application was complete and corresponded to the commission’s requirements and that it will go on the offence.
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A press release read: “Katusha confirms its determination to defend its rights using all civilised ways in order to receive the World Tour license, including the already made appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”
The team’s press officer was unavailable when Cycling Weekly called this morning and failed to respond to an email last night for clarification.
The licence commission awarded 18 first division licences on based on four criteria: sporting, financial, administrative and ethical. With 19 teams applying, it was a tight battle for the 18th position, reportedly between Argos-Shimano, asking for a promotion after eight years in the second division, and Saxo-Tinkoff, with its own tainted ethical record. However, the commission cut Katusha, the second-highest ranked team behind Sky in 2012.
The reason was clearly not on sporting grounds. Spaniard Joaquím Rodríguez finished number one in the WorldTour rankings with wins in Flèche Wallonne and the Tour of Lombardia, and placings in the Giro d’Italia (2nd overall) and the Vuelta a España (3rd).
A dubious ethical record, according to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, led to the commission’s decision.
– Christian Pfannberger: positive EPO test in 2009
– Antonio Colom: positive EPO test in 2009
– Denis Galimzyanov: positive EPO test in 2012
– Alexandr Kolobnev: positive for diuretic in 2011, later cleared for medical reasons
– Kolobnev, Mikhail Ignatiev, Vladimir Gusev and Denis Menchov: linked to Michele Ferrari in Padua investigation
– Kolobnev under investigation for selling 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège win to Alexandre Vinokourov for £120,000
– New General Manger Viatcheslav Ekimov, third in four years, allegedly named as Rider-11 in USADA investigation.
Katusha appealed the commission’s decision to the sport’s high court, the CAS. The Lausanne-based court must act soon as the WorldTour season begins on January 22 in Australia with the Tour Down Under.
The team, however, is able to spend its energy applying for a second division licence. With its points and Rodríguez, it should be able to receive wildcard invitations to many of the WorldTour races such as the Tour de France and the classics. It will want to consider the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC). The race organisers agreed that the MPCC member teams adhering to the stricter anti-doping rules will have first priority to wildcard invitations.
The clock is ticking as Katusha also risks losing Rodríguez. According to UCI rules, riders in a non-registered team are free to leave, and without penalty.