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PARIS (Reuters) - The Italian federation (FIC) and the International Cycling Union (UCI) have clashed over the handling of the Astana case and the row could mean Vincenzo Nibali will be deprived of a Tour de France title defense.
In a letter sent on March 27, that Reuters has obtained a copy of, FIC president Renato Di Rocco queried why the management committee was not consulted by Brian Cookson before the UCI chief asked the Licence Commission to withdraw Astana's license for recent doping scandals.
"In all the mentioned cases (Olympics, women cycling) we, as management committee members, have been directly involved," Di Rocco wrote. "However, concerning the Licence Commission withdrawal of Astana this procedure was not followed.
"On Feb. 27 we had received only a press release which informed us the UCI requested the withdrawal of the Astana pro team (World Tour) license."
Cookson responded in a letter, that Reuters has also obtained a copy of, later on Tuesday to explain that due processes were followed.
"All the necessary procedures (were) complied with correctly under the Constitution," he wrote.
"At all times in this important and urgent matter I have taken the advice of the UCI legal services and ensured I had the support of the executive committee and, where appropriate, the management committee."
Astana are expecting to find out in around two weeks if they will retain their elite license.
Kazakh-funded Astana had until March 20 to submit all documents in their defense and are planning to send a team to be heard at a Licence Commission meeting in Switzerland on Thursday.
Members of the Kazakh federation, sports directors, riders and the head doctor will be among the delegation.
The UCI said last month that it wanted the Licence Commission to strip Astana of their elite status.
The UCI, though, released a statement on Feb. 27 saying it wanted the license withdrawn after finishing a review of an Astana audit undertaken by the Institute of Sport Sciences at the University of Lausanne (ISSUL).
"We have always sustained the Licence Commission is, and must be, autonomous and independent. Why in this case does the Licence Commission not act independently?," Di Rocco concluded in his letter.
Cookson, however, said Di Rocco could have a conflict of interest.
"I understand that you, as president of the Italian Cycling Federation, of course have a special interest in this matter and I acknowledge your right to raise your concerns," the Briton wrote.
"I also note, with some surprise, reports the FIC has entered a joint venture with the Kazakh Federation about ... projects of development with Astana teams only a few days before the Astana Licence Commission hearing."
The World Tour license guarantees its holder direct participation in top races including the Tour de France.
Several Astana riders failed doping tests last season. The UCI agreed to grant the team a license but only on condition they underwent an independent audit.
If Astana are stripped of their license they will be able to take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Editing by Tony Jimenez