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COOKSON ON THE ASTANA AFFAIR

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Dec 10, 2014 – The International Cycling Union (UCI) president has protested that the sport is doing more than many of its rivals to tackle doping as it confronts a new dark chapter over the Tour de France winning Astana team.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

The UCI licensing commission was to announce on Wednesday its recommendation on whether Astana, whose top rider Vincenzo Nibali won this year’s Tour, should get a racing license for 2015 after a series of doping failures.

However UCI president Brian Cookson said the federation, in making a final decision, will also study new allegations that Astana met banned doping doctor Michele Ferrari last year.

Ferrari has denied the claims made by Italian media this week but Cookson said the allegations were “new and very serious.”

He told a small group of reporters that the allegations had not been considered by the licensing commission when it made its report.

But Cookson said the UCI would have to get the evidence from the Italian federation and Olympic committee CONI.

Cookson told the licensing commission to review Astana’s status after brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinksy, and trainee Ilya Davidenok, became the latest failed doping tests suffered by the team.

“We will make a decision in good time through due process,” said the UCI president who strongly defended cycling’s efforts to counter drug cheats.

“I have always held the view that doping was not a practice solely restricted to the sport of cycling.”

“In my view there are two groups of sports: There are those that have a doping problem and are actively trying to do something about it and I would like to say that we are in a leading position on that.”

“And there are those sports that have a doping problem and are still pretty much in denial about it. And sooner or later they are going to have their problems.

Since the Lance Armstrong scandal and other high profile cases, the UCI has put all its drug testing in the hands of an independent agency.

It has also stepped up other monitoring and its efforts have been backed by the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Craig Reedie.

“Clearly they have the occasional positive test,” said Reedie who gave strong backing to cycling’s independent testing body.

“We support that move and we await their decisions with considerable interest,” the WADA chief said.