By Gregor Brown
When Tinkoff Credit Systems team owner Oleg Tinkov added Tyler Hamilton, Jorg Jaksche and Danilo Hondo to his team, he knew he was taking a risk. Hamilton was just returning from a two year suspension for blood doping, Hondo's on-again off-again suspension for a Carphedon was still up in the air, and both Hamilton and Jaksche had been alleged to be named in the Operación Puerto investigation. Still, all three were hired for the new ProTour team, a move that later came back to haunt the team and it's owner.
Tinkov expressed his frustration with the scandals to Cyclingnews earlier this week, and Hamilton in particular was the subject of the Russian's vitriol. "I was clear to my management. I don't want to see him in the team," Tinkov said to Cyclingnews from his office in Moscow. Hamilton was under contract with the team, but in Tinkov's mind, he is no longer a part of the squad after being suspended following the revitalised Puerto investigation. "I want to fire him. That is it. To me he is fired. With the legal perspective it is tricky. I am fed up with Hamilton's type of scandals."
Cyclingnews met with Tinkov in January at the team's presentation in Rome, and we were curious what had changed between then and now, six months later. "I have to admit that I made a mistake. I believed in this guy and I tried to help him. However, more and more, with the development of the situation of [Ivan] Basso, and everybody else who starts to confess, I just realized that there was a case and then I decided that I don't want to deal with it anymore. I don't want to see Hondo, Jaksche and Tyler anymore in my team. That is it."
Tinkov hopes to take his team to the top by 2009. "I think by 2009 I will (I hope) be ready to go the head of the series. ... We learned a lot [in the Giro d'Italia] and the team will be more balanced for next year's Giro," he continued.
By 2009 he will build the team's budget with his own money or with funds from a secondary sponsor. "Either with our without I am going to go much bigger in 2009. In 2008, the budget is secured at four million euro a year. So, for next year it will be more or less the same budget, like this year. However, for 2009 we will be much more serious if we want to be one of the biggest teams in the world, with or without a secondary sponsor.
"Right now it is at four million. Maybe it is a little bit more [laughs - ed.]."
Stay tuned for a full interview with Oleg Tinkov.