PARIS (Reuters) - Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team retained their elite status for 2015 following a review by the License Commission after being hit by a series of doping affairs, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Wednesday.
Astana, however, are "on probation", according to UCI president Brian Cookson, as their license is under two conditions.
The first is that Astana is "audited by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne, an independent body recognized for its expertise in this field," the UCI said.
"The ISSUL will look into the circumstances of the doping cases at stake to determine whether and to what extent the team and or/its management is responsible of the recent events."
The team is managed by Alexandre Vinokourov, who was banned for two years in 2007 after failing two dope tests during the Tour de France that year.
The second condition is that Astana adhere to what the UCI called "the professional teams’ internal operational requirements".
The World Tour license guarantees its holder direct participation in the top races, including the Tour de France, the Paris-Roubaix classic and the Giro d'Italia.
Several Astana riders failed dope tests this season.
Kazakh brothers Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO and trainee Iliya Davidenok also failed a test.
Two others riders from Astana's Continental (third division) team also tested positive but that outfit is technically a different entity to the Astana World Tour team.
"This remains a very serious situation for our sport given the number of doping cases," Cookson said in a statement.
"We shall be following the situation very closely and are awaiting to review the results of the audit.
"Meanwhile, the team will have to comply with the two requirements imposed by the License Commission. The combined effect of this is that the Astana Pro Team can be considered very much to be on probation."
Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Monday that Italian magistrates had evidence that doctor Michele Ferrari, banned for life in July 2012 for his implication in the Lance Armstrong scandal, had been spotted at the Astana training camp in November last year, which the Italian strongly denied on Tuesday.
"For the time being, the elements of this procedure are unknown to the UCI and the License Commission and no consequence can be drawn in this case at hand," the UCI said.
"The UCI would call upon the Commission if evidence against the Team is established."
Editing by Ed Osmond