Katusha suspended Vicioso earlier this month over Puerto links

Ekimov tells us that media reports citing Vicioso whereabouts questions for suspension are untrue

MADRID (VN) — Katusha has temporarily suspended Ángel Vicioso until the team is satisfied that the Spanish rider is not linked to the ongoing Operación Puerto trial.

Katusha general manager Viatcheslav Ekimov confirmed to VeloNews on Wednesday that the Russian team suspended Vicioso on February 3 following an internal team review of possible links to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.

“Vicioso has been suspended due to his relation with the Fuentes trial,” Ekimov told VeloNews. “We took this decision to suspend him temporarily to follow the situation. If there is nothing behind it, he can return to the team. If there is something there, we might take more action.”

There has been growing confusion over exactly where Vicioso has been, prompting the judge from the Puerto trial on Tuesday to say that officials could not locate him.

Vicioso confirmed to the Spanish daily El País on Tuesday evening that he was in nearby Andorra, and that he would appear Friday via videoconference to give testimony in the ongoing Puerto trial.

The 35-year-old Spaniard was scheduled to appear last week along with former Liberty Seguros teammates Joseba Beloki, David Etxebarria, and others, but he claimed he was too ill to testify.

In some media reports coming out of Russia, Katusha officials were quoted as saying that Vicioso was suspended due to these misunderstandings, but Ekimov told VeloNews that the team took the decision earlier this month to sideline him.

“We had a meeting, with Vicioso and his lawyer, and we moved to suspend him,” Ekimov said. “First, he has to clear up the situation and then he can race again.”

Vicioso was scheduled to race at the four-day Vuelta Andalucía Ruta Ciclista del Sol, which ended Wednesday with former Fuentes client Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) winning the final stage and overall.

Vicioso was a member of the Liberty Seguros team during the 2006 season, the same year as the Operación Puerto police raids, and made a statement to a Spanish judge in 2007 that he did not know Puerto ringleader Fuentes.

Former Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saíz, however, in testimony on February 1 in a Madrid courthouse, said that Vicioso and former rider Marcos Serrano asked Saíz permission to consult with Fuentes because they had worked with the Spanish doctor when they were part of the Kelme team.

Those statements might have prompted Katusha to suspend the rider earlier this month, though Ekimov would not expand further on the team’s reasoning.

Katusha was at the time fighting to keep a place in the WorldTour via an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and likely wanted to make moves to protect its case, which hinged on “ethical concerns” held by the sport’s governing body, the UCI.

Ekimov said the team informed the UCI of its decision to suspend Vicioso earlier this month.

Ekimov also said the recent decision by CAS to award Katusha a ProTeam license was “great news for us.”

“There were so many nerves for so many months about everything. Now we are on the runway as the same as the other teams,” he said. “It’s a long story, it’s already two months in my head. We are waiting for the reasoned decision from CAS and we do not want to make more comments on this until we have it.”