Astana to lose WorldTour licence, report suggests

Updated: Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports Astana will lose its WorldTour licence, with the team then only allowed to apply for a third-tier Continental licence

Astana will be stripped of its WorldTour licence, according to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, with the UCI's licence commission set to announce its decision on April 2.

However, the UCI issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying that no decision had yet been made and called the De Telegraaf article 'misleading'.

"Following a misleading article published today in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) would like to clarify that no hearing has yet taken place in the Astana case and therefore no decision has been made. The UCI won’t make any further comment until the Licence Commission has rendered its decision."

In February, the sport's governing body recommended that the Kazakh squad's licence be withdrawn following an audit on the team's policies and structures were different to those presented to the licence commission in December.

De Telegraaf reports that a senior person within the UCI revealed to the paper that the decision was made on March 20, two days before Milan-San Remo. If true, it means Astana will only be able to apply for a third-tier Continental licence.

Such licences are granted by national federations, but it could jeopardise the team's invitations to the year's biggest races, including Vincenzo Nibali's bid to retain his Tour de France title.

As we saw when Katusha was stripped of its WorldTour licence after the 2012 season, Astana could launch an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for sport if its licence is revoked, which could grant Alexandre Vinokourov's team a stay of execution.

But Giro d'Italia race director Mauro Vegni said earlier this month he was confident the situation would be settled before the year's first Grand Tour in May.

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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.