Former Armstrong teammate Ekimov: ‘No comment’ on doping scandal
MADRID (VN) — Nyet. That’s the word from Viatcheslav Ekimov on doping scandals raging across cycling right now.
When asked by VeloNews on Wednesday, the new general manager of the Katusha team refused to comment on the Lance Armstrong scandal that has dominated headlines since last fall.
“I will not comment on that,” Ekimov said via telephone from Girona, Spain. “If I do comment on these things, it will never stop.”
It’s unlikely that questions about Armstrong’s doping legacy will end any time soon. Nor will doubts about Ekimov, who was an integral part of Armstrong’s “blue train” at the U.S. Postal Service team.
The 47-year-old Russian was a key member of Armstrong’s winning teams at the Tour de France, riding with U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel from 2000-06 as a teammate in six of Armstrong’s seven Tour wins that have now been erased from the history books.
After retiring in 2006, he worked as a sport director through 2011 before being named a special assistant to Russian cycling federation president and Katusha owner Igor Makarov, one of the sport’s most powerful players.
Last fall, he was named as Katusha’s general manager after the team parted ways with Hans-Michael Holczer.
So far, Ekimov has kept a low media profile through the aftermath of the Armstrong scandal.
Ekimov took a call from VeloNews on Wednesday evening after it leaked that the team had suspended Spanish rider Ángel Vicioso over possible links to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and the Operación Puerto doping ring.
After taking questions about Vicioso and the team’s fight to gain a ProTeam license via an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), VeloNews asked Ekimov about the Armstrong scandal.
Ekimov was not enthusiastic to answer questions about the past.
“I would like to see a change in the image of cycling,” he said. “Why are the media always looking at this dirty stuff in cycling? We need to look forward.”
Ekimov, however, has also come up in Floyd Landis’ whistleblower case, with Landis claiming that he witnessed Ekimov receiving blood transfusions during the 2004 Tour. According to court documents, Landis said he witnessed the entire squad, including Ekimov, undergo blood transfusions together on a mountain road inside the team bus.
Here is an excerpt from the Landis lawsuit that mentions the alleged occurrence:
On the second occasion, the transfusion was performed on the team bus on the rider from the finish of a stage to the hotel during which time the driver pretended to have engine trouble and stopped on a remote mountain road for approximately an hour, so the entire team could have a half liter of blood transfused,” court documents read. “This was the only time that Mr. Landis ever saw the entire team being transfused in plain view of all the other riders and bus driver. … The other USPS riders receiving transfusions included José Azevedo, Manuel Beltrán, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Benjamín Noval, Pavel Padrnos and José Luis Rubiera.
“I am not a big supporter of all this business,” Ekimov continued. “I have seen my name is in Floyd Landis’ whistleblower case … there are many things that are not true. That’s my comment. What more can I say?”
With that, he said unless there were other questions about other topics, he “had a lot to do,” and the phone conversation ended.