PARIS (Reuters) - Astana, the team of Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, retained their World Tour licence because they stayed clear of doping scandals this season, the International Cycling Union's (UCI) independent licence commission said.
The commission, whose reasoned decision was published by the UCI on Tuesday, also explained that Astana have committed to "undergo a fundamental reform in order to prevent the risks of doping".
The UCI had requested Astana to be stripped of their elite status, which guarantees an automatic spot in the Tour de France, but the independent panel decided against it on April 23 after reviewing an audit by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL).
The reasoned decision said that although "the ISSUL report ... highlighted the flaws in this team in 2014", there was room for improvement in the coming months.
"At this stage, in view of the modifications ... and the absence of further incidents since autumn 2014, it is found that the sanction of a withdrawal, motivated mainly by facts of the past, (would be too harsh a punishment)," the decision said.
Several Astana riders failed dope tests last season. The team were granted a licence but "on probation".
Astana have promised to eradicate the flaws highlighted by the ISSUL report -- lack of resources in the coaching staff and a poor management culture.
Kazakh-funded Astana are managed by Alexandre Vinokourov, the 2012 Olympic road race champion who was suspended for two years for blood doping in 2007.
"Taking into account that the team will be under the supervision of the ISSUL and monitored by the Licence Commission for the rest of the 2015 season, we are satisfied by this decision which we believe is proportionate," UCI president Brian Cookson said in a statement.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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