Vows that the show will go on
When Tour de France officials were informed of Alexander Vinokourov's positive test control for a homologous blood transfusion resulting from a post-stage 13 blood check, they responded by asking the rider and his team Astana to leave the world's biggest bike race. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown was in Pau to capture the responses from Tour director Christian Prudhomme and ASO President Patrice Clerc.
Alexander Vinokourov staged one of the Tour's most surprising comebacks when he recovered from a disastrous first half of the Tour to win the stage 13 time trial in Albi. Coming into the day over eight minutes down on GC, his dominating victory had fans going wild over the teal blue clad rider who had clawed his way from 18th overall back inside the top ten as a result of the win.
When 'Vino' cracked in the Pyrenees on stage 14 and lost more than 29 minutes and then rebounded on Monday's stage 15 to Loudenvielle, where he made the early break and then stormed away for another stage win, his fans and team were elated. But dark clouds quickly formed overnight when the Kazakh rider got the results of a blood test taken after his time trial victory which showed evidence of an illegal blood transfusion.
A counter-analysis is expected by Wednesday, but the Tour took no time in asking the Switzerland-based team to go home. Vinokourov, as well as team-mates Klöden, Savoldelli, Kashechkin, Ivanov, Navarro, Colom, Rast and Iglinskiy, will not start on Wednesday when the Tour departs from Orthez.
"I was told by [Astana's General Manager] Marc Biver that Alexander Vinokourov had tested positive after a blood test following the time trial. I asked Marc Biver that the team leaves the Tour de France and he accepted," said Clerc to a room packed with journalists.
The news hit the French Grand Tour like a bag of bricks and some people speculated that organisers of the Tour, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) would decide to stop the show. Clerc and Prudhomme both gave a strong statement to the contrary and insisted that the fight against doping won't stop, even if it has to be improved.
"I have never thought to stop the Tour," stated Clerc. "I said to Prudhomme that we have started a war against doping and unfortunately in wars there are losses, but it is out of the question to stop, we must go on." Prudhomme agreed, even if this is yet another dark event to rock the Tour in his second full year of tenure.