Astana: Vincenzo Nibali's team granted UCI licence

The Astana Pro Team was founded in 2007 and is backed by a group of state-owned firms from Kazakhstan

Astana, the team of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, have retained their World Tour licence despite a number of positive doping tests.

But the team has been placed "on probation"external-link by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The UCI says Astana will be audited by the University of Lausanne's Institute of Sport Sciences to see if the team is responsible for recent doping cases.

Astana said in a statement: "We welcome and are grateful for this chance.

"We realise that mistakes have been made and we will work with the UCI's commission to show them we have nothing to hide."

Five Astana riders have tested positive for banned substances in recent months, all from the team's home country of Kazakhstan.

And UCI President Brian Cookson has not tried to play down the delicate position his organisation finds itself in.

"This remains a very serious situation for our sport given the number of doping cases," he said.

"We shall be following the [Astana] situation very closely and are waiting to review the results of the audit."

Meanwhile, the sport's governing body denied a licence to French outfit Europcar, suggesting that "the team does not fulfil the financial criteria".