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CYCLING

DOPING

UCI urges ban on Astana cycling team over doping

The world cycling federation, Swiss-based UCI, on Friday called for the withdrawal of the racing licence for the Astana team of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali over doping accusations.

UCI urges ban on Astana cycling team over doping
UCI headquarters in Aigle in the canton of Vaud. Photo: UCI

The UCI said a study on the Kazakhstan-based team contains "compelling grounds" for a review by the body's independently-run Licence Commission and that it requests "the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn."
   
The World Tour Licence gives access to the main international races, including the Tour de France and big tours in Italy and Spain.
   
Astana said it was "compelled to respect" the UCI move while it awaited a final decision.

Media reports said it was consulting lawyers.
   
The team has been under the spotlight since brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinksy and three other Astana riders tested positive for banned substances in the past year.
   
It has also been on the defensive over Italian media claims claims that banned doping doctor Michele Ferrari had met with the team.
   
The UCI agreed to give Astana a World Tour Licence in December on condition that the team cooperated with a study by Lausanne University's Institute of Sport Sciences (ISSUL) on last year's doping cases.
   
"After careful review of this extensive report, the UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn," said a UCI
statement.
   
"The UCI considers that the ISSUL audit has, among other things, revealed a big difference between the policies and structures that the team presented to the Licence Commission in December and the reality on the ground."
   
The federation said it had also been given details of an Italian investigation into doping and tax evasion by cycling teams. Media reports said the Italian magistrates had details of a visit to an Astana camp by banned doctor Ferrari.
   
Ferrari was banned from cycling for life over his role in the doping scandal surrounding disgraced US cycling champion Lance Armstrong.
   
"As some evidence concerns Astana Pro Team members, the file has been passed to the Licence Commission as part of this referral," the UCI statement said.
   
Astana's general manager is Alexander Vinokurov who twice tested positive for blood doping on the 2007 Tour de France and had worked with Ferrari in the past.

He has strongly denied any systematic doping by the Astana team.
   
An Astana Pro Team spokesman told AFP of the UCI move: "We are compelled to respect the decision pending due process from the Independent License Commission."

The Iglinsky brothers of Kazakhstan are members of Astana's World Tour team.

They tested tested positive for EPO in September.

A team trainee and two members of the third ranked Continental team also failed blood doping tests.

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RUSSIA

Sports court in Switzerland lifts life bans of 28 Russians accused of doping

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday lifted life bans on 28 of the 43 Russians accused of doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, meaning some could still compete at this month's Pyeongchang Games.

Sports court in Switzerland lifts life bans of 28 Russians accused of doping
Matthieu Reeb, secretary general of CAS, announces the decision. Photo: François-Xavier Marit/AFP
Sport's top court ruled there was “insufficient” evidence that the athletes had benefited from a system of state-sponsored doping at the last Winter Games, hosted by Russia.
   
CAS said in its judgement: “In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned.”
   
It added: “The evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case.”
    
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from competing at Pyeongchang as a team over the doping scandal, although 169 Russian competitors have been cleared to take part as neutrals.
   
Forty-two Russians — bobsleighers, cross-country skiers, competitors in the skeleton and ice hockey players — appealed against the bans at CAS.
   
In addition to lifting the bans on the 28, CAS also lifted the life bans of another 11 Russians but barred them from competing at the Pyeongchang Olympics that start on February 9th.
   
Among those whose life bans were scrapped is Alexander Legkov, 34, who won gold in Sochi in the 50-kilometre freestyle cross-country skiing event and silver in the 4x10km relay, only to have his results annulled over the doping allegations.
 
Explosive findings
 
Last week's extraordinary mass hearing of Russian athletes held less than three weeks before the Olympics begin forced CAS to temporarily move their compact headquarters in Lausanne to a large conference centre in Geneva.
   
The hearings at the world's top sports court were as a result of allegations of a vast state-sponsored doping programme contained in the report into Sochi authored by sports law professor Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency.
   
His explosive findings laid out the workings of the programme, from the use of secret state agents to passing urine samples out of testing labs through mouseholes.
   
But for Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko, CAS's rulings proved Moscow never orchestrated a state-sponsored doping programme.
   
“One can say that there wasn't any system or any sort of manipulation at the Sochi Olympic Games, we've always said that but today the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued such a ruling,” said Mutko, who himself is appealing to CAS over his life ban.
   
He was banned after being singled out in McLaren's report.
   
Many of the details about Russia's alleged state-supported doping programme were first uncovered by a groundbreaking German investigation.
 
Kremlin 'very glad' 
 
News of Thursday's CAS verdict was warmly welcomed in Moscow.
   
“We are very glad for our athletes,” President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
   
“The information about the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport proves that energetic work to stand up for our rights in court and elsewhere — it is justified, it can be effective and it should continue,” Peskov added.
   
“And we are hoping that this work will certainly continue.”
   
He said it was unclear whether the 28 who had their appeals upheld would now compete in South Korea.
   
“It is a difficult question,” the Kremlin spokesman added, noting Russian officials would continue talking to the IOC.
 
The IOC said on Thursday the lifting of the life bans did not “automatically” allow those athletes to compete at the Pyeongchang Games.
   
“Not to be banned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation” to the 2018 Games in South Korea, the IOC explained in a statement.
   
Those Russians already cleared to take part in the Games will do so under the designation 'Olympic Athlete from Russia'.