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Teams and riders could be punished for illegal pay-off
The UCI has confirmed to Cyclingnews that it will open an official investigation into Alexandre Vinokourov's victory at the 2010 edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege after details of payments to Alexandr Kolobnev were revealed by the Italian police investigation into Dr. Michele Ferrari.
The allegations of Vinokourov paying off the Russian so he could secure victory in the Ardennes classic after returning from a ban for blood doping were first published by the L'illustre newspaper in Switzerland in 2011. Vinokourov and Kolobnev rubbished the accusations at the time and the UCI refused to open an investigation due to a lack of proof.
Now clear evidence from the Padua investigation has landed at the UCI headquarters, forcing the UCI to act.
"The UCI confirms it has received the part of the Padua police investigation dossier regarding the doubts about Alexandre Vinokourov's victory at the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege," a UCI spokesman told Cyclingnews.
"The UCI has always treated this kind of problem extremely seriously but when the matter first arose following a report in the L'illustre newspaper, there was insufficient evidence to open an investigation. Today, after receiving the information contained in the dossier from Padua, the UCI has decided to open an official investigation. Vinokourov and Kolobnev have been informed and asked to say when they can travel to Aigle so that they respond to the accusations."
On Saturday the Italian Corriere della Sera newspaper published details of the Padua investigation into Vinokourov's victory, including the email exchange between the two riders about payments and bank details. Both riders are also alleged to be clients of Dr. Ferrari, with details of Vinokourov's payments to the disgraced doctor revealed in the recent USADA evidence.
Police in Padua are investigating the possibility of a team doping programme at Astana by Dr Ferrari after Leonardo Bertagnolli and Volodymyr Bileka gave sworn statements to police that they saw several Astana riders working with Dr. Ferrari at altitude.
Vinokourov officially retired after winning gold in the Olympic road race in London but will stay in cycling as the head of the Astana team in 2013. The UCI recently awarded Astana a WorldTour licence for 2013 but the team's place in the highest echelon of cycling could be at risk if it is proved that Vinokourov paid-off Kolobnev to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Astana has signed Vincenzo Nibali as team leader for 2013.
"If it is discovered that UCI rules have been broken, the matter will be referred to the UCI Licence Commission and could also involve the Astana and Katusha teams," the UCI spokesman confirmed to Cyclingnews.
"We are determined to act transparently and constructively to protect the integrity of sport."