Solovey sacked by Astana-Acca Due O for refusing to switch nationality, claims Ukrainian federation

Vinokourov says she was was fired "entirely on other issues"

Astana-Acca Due O's decision to fire Anna Solovey for "unprofessional behaviour" has been disputed by the president of the Ukrainian Cycling Federation, who claims that she was instead fired for refusing to take up Kazakhstani citizenship ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The 23-year-old signed for Astana-Acca Due O this season after claiming a silver medal in the individual time trial at the World Championships in Ponferrada last year, which was achieved despite her preparations being hampered by the conflict between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government in her home town of Lugansk.

Solovey, who had previously served a two-year ban for a positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone, raced just once before the 2014 Worlds, and spent much of the year training on the track in Lvov, in western Ukraine, some 1,400 kilometres from her home town.

Solovey has made just three appearances in the team's colours this season and Astana-Acca Due O announced on Tuesday that it had terminated her contract, citing "several organizational difficulties that the athlete, with her unprofessional behaviour, has caused to the team."

In a statement released on Wednesday, however, the Cycling Federation of Ukraine said that Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov had "repeatedly met" with its president Oleksandr Bashenko to propose Solovey's switch to racing for Kazakhstan. The CFU stated its belief that there was a "clear connection between the termination of Anna Solovey's contract and her refusal to perform for Kazakhstan."

"The Cycling Federation of Kazakhstan and Alexandre Vinokourov personally have more than once asked me to let Anna perform for their country," Bashenko said. "This was not a kind of proposal that we would accept. Anna Solovey is a real face of Ukrainian cycling, she is a great talent and a real medal candidate for the next Olympic Games."

Speaking to the website Astanafans.com, Vinokourov said that he believed Solovey had herself first floated the idea of racing for Kazakhstan but insisted that, in any case, her nationality had not been a factor in her departure from the Astana-Acca Due O team.

"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 races," Vinokourov said, having noted that he was not a spokesperson for the women's team. "If a person in the last half of the season has done only one major race for the team… it's not normal, I think.

"As I understand it, the team just could not control it, and of course, no matter how gifted athlete is, such risks are not necessary. Here I fully understand the decision of the management of Astana-Acca Due O."

Vinokourov also denied that Astana-Acca Due O had attempted to prevent Solovey from competing for Ukraine at the inaugural European Games in Baku this week, pointing out that her fellow countryman and Astana Pro Team rider Andriy Grivko is lining out in the men's road race before his likely participation at the Tour de France in the service of Vincenzo Nibali.

Solovey, meanwhile, seemed unaffected by the controversy on Thursday morning as she claimed the silver medal in the women's time trial at the European Games behind Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands).

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