Vino’ fires back at critics

Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov fires back at his critics, asking, "In what other sport are you allowed to participate without the right to win?"

Vino' called his triumph in Liège the "most beautiful" of his life. But that was before he met the press. Photo: Graham Watson |

Agence France Presse

Riled by the negative impact of his victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov took the unusual step of writing an open letter Monday in a bid to convince his detractors that his win was untainted.

Vinokourov, one of cycling’s big names of the past decade, was booed and jeered by some fans as he rode across the finish line of the prestigious Belgian one-day classic on Sunday.

And after the race he faced several questions by reporters who demanded to know why, less than a year after serving a two-year ban for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France, he was riding with such gusto.

Vinokourov, claiming he was “saddened” by press reports doubting the integrity of his win, said he has faced a battery of dope tests recently and has nothing to hide.

“I can’t do anything about the doubts surrounding me since what happened in 2007, but I totally refute any doubt surrounding me now, especially in the absence of proof,” said the 36-year-old.

“Since my return last August I’ve been very obliging to the media, but my victory in Liège seems to have prompted a few old jealousies to emerge. I don’t understand the gulf between the reaction to my win and the hundreds of messages of support I’ve received.

“In what other sport are you allowed to participate without the right to win?”

Vinokourov’s re-emergence coincides with that of Italian Riccardo Ricco, who finished second behind the Kazakh at the Giro del Trentino last week, having recently returned from a 20-month doping ban for using the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) at the 2008 Tour.

The fact Vinokourov that trained recently in Tenerife, a reputed hideout for professional athletes looking to cheat, has not helped quell suspicion. And neither did his aversion to talking about the doping issue on Sunday.

Vinokourov added that he is complying with all of the UCI’s rules on doping, including the biological passport program, to which all professionals must adhere.

“I’ve served a two-year ban for the darker years of my career. The reason I don’t want to elaborate (on the doping issue) is because I don’t think it will do the sport of cycling any good,” he added.

“I’ve got nothing to hide. Since I returned to cycling I’ve been subject to over 30 anti-doping tests, all of which have been negative. My biological passport has been stamped, and so I can compete.”

In Tenerife, he said, “I was subject to two random blood and urine tests in two weeks. What more can I do for the sport’s authorities to prove I’m honest?”