By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari has denied meeting with Astana team members last year as the Kazakh outfit, which features Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali in its ranks, sweats over its participation in next season's top races.
Astana's World Tour license -- which guarantees a spot in the top events -- is under review by the license commission, which is expected to tell the International Cycling Union (UCI) whether the team will keep their credentials later this week.
Two Astana riders, brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, failed dope tests in August before three riders from their Continental (second-tier) team also tested positive later in the year, triggering a close review by the license commission.
To make matters worse, Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Monday that 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.
"I feel obliged, albeit very reluctantly, to once again deny the latest MEDIA BULLSH*T with regards to my presence ("during the night", or even in broad daylight, if you prefer) at the Astana Team Training Camp in Montecatini (I've been in that town, if I remember correctly, in 1994 to taste the famous waffles) last year in November," Ferrari wrote on his personal website (www.53x12.com).
"The bombshell of "the dark shadow of Ferrari" is absolutely FALSE and whoever has published it will respond about it in the appropriate courts: I hope that the Kazakh team will ask adequate compensation for the damages."
In 2008, Astana were left out of the Tour de France organizers following drugs scandals, one of which was current manager Alexandre Vinokourov, then a team rider, failing two dope tests during the 2007 races.
Should Astana be denied a World Tour license for 2015, they have the possibility to take the matter before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman)