Astana will be 'test case' for UCI pro cycling reforms

Astana to undergo audit as stricter rules for top-level professional cycling teams will place responsibility on squads to look after their riders

Astana chases on stage eight of the 2014 Tour de France
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Astana will be a guinea pig to test the UCI's reforms for 2017. After suffering five doping cases, the team agreed to an internal audit and a set of "operational requirements" in order to keep its WorldTour licence for 2015.

"They will have to comply to the [internal operational requirements], that most of the teams will have to follow in 2017," UCI President Brian Cookson told Cycling Weekly.

"It's coming out of the current reform of pro cycling. We've applied that to Astana from 2015. The teams will have to look after their riders more effectively and demonstrate that they are not putting too much demands on their riders with race days, [demonstrate] skills performances, the support and coaching...

"All of those things are designed to make sure Astana is living up to its responsibilities."

The governing body renewed Astana’s WorldTour racing licence last Wednesday after some delay. The Kazakh team had five doping cases, two from its professional team that includes Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali. The UCI, however, was able to take advantage of the situation as it prepares for its 2017 reforms.

Astana still 'very much under scrutiny', says UCI president Brian Cookson

Astana could still lose its WorldTour licence before start of 2015 season depending on Padua anti-doping investigation evidence

The UCI is planning sweeping changes of the sport for 2017, including fewer and smaller teams, a new points system and a streamlined calendar. Part of those changes will include rules or “cahier des charges” for how teams must operate.

The 10 requirements includes a cap on the number of race days, the number of cyclists in a team and sets a limit on how many riders one coach may handle.

Teams Ag2r La Mondiale, Cannondale-Garmin, Etixx-QuickStep, Giant-Alpecin, FDJ, IAM Cycling, Orica-GreenEdge and Trek Factory Racing already volunteered to follow the requirements for 2015. Astana and Neri Sottoli, which obtained its second division licence after doping cases, will become guinea pigs along with the eight WorldTour teams.

Sky and all other top teams must follow the rules in 2016 and starting in 2017 they will receive sanctions if they fail to follow them.

First, Astana be tested. The Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) will audit the team through the end of February.

“The institute will be carrying out a detailed audit, looking at the circumstances of their doping cases and determining at what extent the team and management was responsible,” Cookson said.

“It will look at the team's internal structure, the cultural, the management system to understand if it is adequate. The team will have to be open to interview, everyone on the team will need to be available.”

Astana will pay for the audit, taking place through early February. It paves the way for 2016, when the UCI will require all other top teams receive the ISSUL seal of approval to receive a racing licence.

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