The fate of the Astana cycling team will not be decided until April 24 after International Cycling Union (UCI) Licence Commission President Pierre Zappelli chose to give the Kazakh-based outfit more time to prepare evidence, it has been reported.
According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, the Licence Commission hearing, held yesterday in Lausanne, lasted for nine hours and proved to be a tense affair.
The UCI are considering withdrawing Astana's World Tour Licence following three positive drugs tests involving members of the team, and if they are successful it could deprive 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali of getting the chance to defend his title in July.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the UCI, the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL), who conducted an independent audit on Astana's anti-doping methods, and the team, who pled their case in front of the panel.
Cycling's world governing body has issued a statement confirming the list of attendees, but added that they would not be making any further comment on the issue due to the fact that the decision is pending.
The same newspaper reported that the Astana affair has proved divisive in the world of cycling, with Italian Cycling Federation president Renato Di Rocco and Russian Federation President Igor Makarov two key figures in support of the team.
The Kazkh side are reportedly likely to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if their licence is removed.
Gazetta dello Sport also claim that Nibali himself had sent a letter via email directly to Zappelli, which was translated into French by the cyclist's lawyer, and said that the 30-year-old was a "global symbol of the fight against doping".
The letter adde: "We believe that the team that wins the 2013 Giro d'Italia and the 2014 Tour de France and does it with its captain Vincenzo Nibali, the number one cyclist in the world and also a symbol of an honest and clean sport, has to continue to take part in all competitions in the wider interests of cycling, sport and justice."
The development comes after UCI President Brian Cookson was forced to defend himself against accusations he acted unconstitutionally over his handling of the affair.
The comments were made by Di Rocco, who accused Cookson of influencing the decision of the Licence Commission, throwing the independence of the Commission into doubt.
But in a letter to the Italian, a copy of which has been obtained by insidethegames, Cookson remained defiant, insisting "that all the necessary procedures for matters of urgency have been complied with correctly, under the Constitution."
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March 2015: Exclusive: UCI President denies accusation from Italian Cycling he acted unconstitutionally over Astana licence
February 2015: Tour de France winner's future thrown into doubt as UCI request withdrawal of Astana's racing licence
November 2014: Feeder squad of Tour de France winner's team provisionally suspended after third doping case
October 2014: UCI to investigate team of Tour de France winner after third rider tests positive for banned substance