PARIS (AFP) — The UCI will investigate claims made by Swiss and Italian newspapers that retired Olympic champion Alexander Vinokourov paid off a rival to win his second Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic in 2010.
Under pressure to clean up the image of the sport in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, the UCI said it had summoned both riders to Switzerland “to explain themselves regarding the events concerning them.”
The governing body, which faces a $2 million lawsuit against it from Australian clothing firm Skins over allegations the organization failed to crack down on doping, also told AFP it had received a dossier on the Liège-Bastogne-Liège matter from the Italian state prosecutor’s office in Padua.
The UCI said it would assess any information to which it was privy on the matter “constructively and transparently” in order to “safeguard the integrity of the sport.”
Vinokourov, banned for blood doping from 2007-2009, faces claims he paid Russian rival Alexandre Kolobnev €150,000 to secure his second victory in cycling’s oldest one-day classic.
The initial accusations appeared in Swiss magazine L’Illustre last year — since then, the UCI says it has been looking into the affair.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera followed up this week, publishing emails between the riders which appear to support the accusations.
A first email sent from Kolobnev to Vinokourov the day after the race allegedly reads, “I don’t know if I did the right thing. I didn’t do it for the contract (money) but out of respect for you and for the situation you were in.
“Even my wife was disappointed I finished second.”
Vinokourov’s second victory in ‘La Doyenne’ was his biggest win since his return from his doping ban the previous year.
The same email from Kolobnev, which allegedly contains details of a bank account in Switzerland, adds, “Now I’m waiting patiently. Take my details and delete this email.”
Vinokourov reportedly answered several days later, “Hi Kolobok (Kolobnev’s nickname) I’m sorry I didn’t answer you earlier. Don’t worry, you did the right thing… You said yourself that what goes around comes around and God sees everything.
“I will respect our deal. You’ll have to wait a while. Vino.”
The newspaper claims Kolobnev received two payments, the first of €100,000 on July 12, 2010, and the second of €50,000 on December 28 of that year.
Vinokourov, when asked following his Liège win about its significance after his doping ban, refused to discuss details of his doping past, telling reporters, “It’s proof you can win without doping.”
The 39-year-old, Kazakhstan’s biggest sports star of his generation, stunned the field at the Olympic road race in London to win gold, then announced his retirement from the sport. He is set to manage the Astana team next year.