Russian sanctions could force Tinkov out of cycling

Team owner says Contador could win all three Grand Tours in 2015

Oleg Tinkov has said that the economic sanctions imposed on Russia could mean his Tinkoff bank could no longer support his Tinkoff-Saxo WorldTour team, and force him to pull out of cycling as both a sponsor and owner.

"If the sanctions will deteriorate the Russian economy and share prices decline even more – there is no room to decline, but let's assume there is – and then the Tinkoff bank starts to suffer, then I will stop my sponsorship," he told Bloomberg TV. "I don't know as owner of the team if I will be able to find a substitution sponsor in Europe. Most likely I will not, and I will have to shut down to the team."

The value of the Russian rouble has drastically declined in recent months due to sanctions imposed on the country after the annexation of Crimea. Financial institutions such as Tinkov's Tinkoff bank have felt the squeeze and the team owner spoke out against the sanctions. "If I were the Americans, I would be more concerned about China than Russia, but they are trying to push Russia. It is their choice.

"If you push us [Russians], eventually 80 people in Europe will lost their job because of the sanction. These days, I don't know what they are doing…we are all connected now."

Tinkov also returned to the topic of riding all three Grand Tours in a single season. His plan to offer one million to the top four general classification riders for taking on all three has fallen by the wayside but he believes that his star rider Alberto Contador could do big things if he attempted it.

"I think he is able to win all of the three Grand Tours next year," said Tinkov before responding to questions about if it would be possible to do it without resorting to doping products. "I will tell you something. There are a lot of rumours about doping, but I owned a team for three years before and I own the team for two years here…because I was the sponsor one year, now I own the team. So, five years. I never, ever had any doping cases in my team. None. Zero. Nil."

Michael Rogers did test positive for Clenbuterol while riding for the team but he was later cleared by the UCI after claiming the positive came from contaminated meat while racing at the Tour of Beijing.

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