UPDATE: Vinokourov says dismissal about ‘disagreement,’ not citizenship
The tit-for-tat centered around Ukranian cyclist Hanna Solovey’s dismissal from the Astana-Acca Due O women’s team continues.
Alexander Vinokourov, general manager of Astana, denied claims made by the Ukranian Cycling Federation that Solovey’s dismissal from the squad was retribution over a failed attempt to make her a Kazakhstani citizen in time for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
“I think she was excluded from the squad entirely on other issues. She had a disagreement with the management team, she did not go to the races,” Vinokourov said in an interview with Astanafans.com.
Vinokourov described Solovey as a “good, talented athlete,” who in fact showed the initiative to ride for Kazakhstan. The real trouble, he said, was her propensity to go back to Ukraine and “disappear there.”
A statement released by the Astana-Acca team on Thursday parallels Vinokourov’s story, providing a detailed explanation of the behavior it described as “unprofessional” when Solovey’s contract was first terminated.
“We understand the problems of Ukraine, but the race calendar agreed with the athlete and her coach has been largely ignored (only three race days) and it also happened that the rider answered to team calls only the day before an international event. This behaviour costed the team lot of money in non-used flight tickets, but above all team Astana-Acca Due O had to withdraw its participation to some prestigious races of UCI international calendar, including the World Cup event in Philadelphia,” the statement reads.
The lack of communication continued for “weeks,” according to the statement, before the team sent the Ukranian rider a formal notice to fulfill the contract she signed in November 2014.
“Once again we received no answer and we knew something about her activity only indirectly through the social networks, where we also saw that she went at races using different material than that of the team,” the team said in a statement, adding, “How can we trust in a rider that disappears and refuses to talk with us? For us this is not a professional behaviour and to protect the team and its sponsors the termination of the contract was inevitable.”
“If a person, in the last half of the season, made only one major race for the team … It’s not normal, I think,” Vinokourov said.
“As I understand it, the team just could not control her, and of course, no matter how gifted athlete was on any team, such risks are not necessary,” Vinokourov said. “Here I fully understand the decision of Astana-Acca Due O management.”