Saxo-Tinkoff backer Oleg Tinkov has called for changes to the UCI WorldTour licensing system and claimed that cycling’s doping problem has been “exaggerated.”
Tinkov’s team is still waiting to hear if it has secured UCI WorldTour status for 2013, and it is understood that the team is vying with Argos-Shimano for the final berth. A decision is expected on December 10.
Saxo-Tinkoff’s application has been complicated by the fact that it is unable to count any UCI points from its leader and Vuelta Espana winner Alberto Contador towards it final tally, given that he returned from suspension for doping in August of this year and his points cannot be counted for two years.
"Alberto Contador is a superstar, the best racer in the world, and I can't even remember the names of whoever Argos-Shimano have in their squad," Tinkov said in a press conference with the Spaniard in Moscow on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.
"It's absolutely, obviously, a crazy situation. Personally, it's difficult for me to imagine a situation where we don't receive a licence."
As well as Contador’s suspension, Saxo-Tinkoff’s reputation has suffered from allegations levelled against manager Bjarne Riis in Tyler Hamilton’s recently published autobiography. Riis, who previously confessed to doping as a rider, has been accused of facilitating Hamilton’s blood doping programme with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes when he rode for the then-CSC squad in 2002 and 2003.
“This problem is exaggerated,” Tinkov said of the wider issue of doping in cycling. “As far as I understand it, the topic of doping exists everywhere, in other sports too, but nowhere does it get such phenomenal attention.”
Rabobank pulled out of sponsorship in October, citing weariness with cycling’s continued doping problems, but Tinkov suggested that the Dutch bank had simply taken advantage of the current climate to leave the sport. Although Rabobank will not appear on the team’s jerseys next season, the bank is set to honour its financial commitment for 2013.
“Maybe they just got tired and were looking for a reason,” Tinkov said, according to rsport.ru.