By Shane Stokes
This weekend, the UCI filed its appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in relation to the length of the ban previously handed down to Alexander Vinokourov. The Astana rider tested positive for a blood transfusion during the 2007 Tour de France but was only given a one-year suspension by the national federation of Kazakhstan.
The UCI is seeking to have the ban extended to two years, the norm for serious doping offences. "As far as the UCI is concerned, he wasn't given the right sanction in the first place," its president Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Sunday. "The UCI needs to ensure that he gets what we feel is the right sanction. To do that, we needed to go to CAS, especially as there is speculation that he may try to come back in April."
McQuaid previously indicated several weeks ago that the UCI would take this course of action, following the news that the 35-year-old was planning on returning to cycling in time for the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
At the time, the Kazakh minister for sport, Anatoliy Kulnazarov, stated that he would do so with the Astana team.
"There is no way he will be allowed back," McQuaid said on November 13. "The UCI does not accept the one-year sanction, it should have been two years.
"We have regulations in relation to when people can come back from an anti-doping sanction. Vinokourov will have to follow the regulations as they are. That would certainly preclude him from riding the Classics next year."
McQuaid stated on Sunday that the process of lodging the appeal for a longer ban took time to prepare, but that CAS would now be able to proceed with the case.
Vinokourov has long had close ties with the Kazakh cycling federation. When the Liberty Seguros team lost its sponsor due to the 2006 Operación Puerto affair, the then-prime minister of Kazakhstan and national cycling federation president Daniel Akhmetov helped found the Astana team at short notice. The goal was to ensure Vinokourov could take part in the 2006 Tour de France. The team was ultimately prevented from starting the race due to Puerto links involving several riders from its Tour selection.