By Gregor Brown
The Giro d'Italia organiser, RCS Sport has said it is prepared to ask the UCI for damages should the ongoing Astana licence case have an adverse effect on its 2015 race.
The Kazakh team, with 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, could lose its WorldTour licence over doping offences, but currently remains free to participate in races including the Giro, which begins on May 9.
Race Director Mauro Vegni wants to avoid a repeat of 2011, when Spaniard Alberto Contador won the overall title only to have it stripped due to an ongoing doping case stemming from the 2010 Tour de France. That case, with its appeals process, took 18 months to resolve.
"Given the delay in Astana's case, I hope that it all comes to nothing," Vegni told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
"And in any case, I'm ready to ask the UCI for damages if we should have a repeat of the 2011 case with Contador. It still bothers me to think of that Giro title they stripped."
Italian Michele Scarponi placed second in 2011 and received the title after Contador's case closed.
Astana's Fabio Aru is one of the favourites to win the Giro this May with Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Team Sky's Richie Porte and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step). Aru finished third last year behind Colombian winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
"I hope this is a Giro without controversy and a little sun, but I'm worried with the Astana case still in the hands of the UCI's licence commission," Vegni continued.
"I told the UCI president, [Brian Cookson] in March that I don't want a team that's under investigation in the Giro. Why should I have another winner, who has the right to race, when the team could end up losing its appeal to the CAS after the Giro finishes, all due to timing and bureaucratic delays?"
The UCI's licence commission is due to hear more evidence from team Astana on April 24 in Geneva, Switzerland. A decision may take weeks to come. If it rules against Astana, the team in blue could still appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and race, pending a decision.
Cycling's governing body renewed Astana's WorldTour licence last December on the condition of an internal audit. After it received the report from the audit, it asked its commission to strip Astana's licence.
Following Italian Vincenzo Nibali's Tour de France win last July, five doping cases rocked the team's foundation. Its top riders, Kazakh brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO.
Maxim had helped Nibali win the Tour, but a month later failed an anti-doping control. The other three were from Astana's amateur riders, including 22-year-old Kazakh Ilya Davidenok, who rode with the professional team as a trainee or stagiaire.
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