Vinokourov: I can’t keep paying for 2007 all my life

Astana manager on Licence Commission and CIRC

While Vincenzo Nibali stood centre-stage at the Tour de Francepresentation at the Palais des Congrès and spoke of his desire to defend his yellow jersey in 2015, his Astana manager Alexandre Vinokourov lingered in the aisles and quietly fielded questions on the team's recent spate of doping cases, which could harm its prospects of participating in the race at all next year.

Last week, the UCI announced that its Licence Commission would review Astana's place in the WorldTour following the recent positive tests for EPO of brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy, as well as stagiaire Ilya Davidenok's adverse analytical finding for anabolic androgenic steroids.

Speaking to Cyclingnews in Paris on Wednesday, Vinokourov repeated his claim that the riders had acted independently of the team, and defended both Astana's stance on anti-doping and his own position as team manager.

"I'm angry like never before. I feel betrayed," said Vinokourov. "The team has worked hard against doping and we've never had problems with the Licence Commission before. Like every year, we'll have to show that we take measures against doping, that we have internal tests, we respect all of the rules. I don't see why the team should have to pay for the stupidity of two riders. The rules are the same for everybody and the commission will decide if we are working correctly or not."

There are perhaps two pertinent – and conflicting – precedents for Astana's case. In late 2012, the UCI initially excluded Katusha from the WorldTour due to its doping record only for the Russian team to appeal successfully to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and win reinstatement.

On the other hand, in 2008, ASO declined to invite Astana – then the team of defending champion Alberto Contador – to the Tour de France due to a spate doping cases on the team, including Vinokourov's own positive test for a homologous blood transfusion in 2007.

Astana received a vote of confidence of sorts from the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), however, who released a statement after its assembly on Tuesday praising the team for suspending itself from the Tour of Beijing following the second positive test. Vinokourov chose to attend a presentation at the Hublot watch factory in Switzerland rather than speak at that MPCC meeting in Paris, where directeur sportif Dmitriy Fofonov instead represented the team.

"We're in the MPCC because we want to show that we are transparent, maybe not like other teams who aren't part of it," Vinokourov said. "We couldn't participate in Beijing because that's a rule for the MPCC. And that was a pity because China is a very important market for the team and for Kazakhstan."

Since then, however, a third member of the Astana set-up, Ilya Davidenok, has returned an adverse analytical finding for anabolic steroids. The 22-year-old has raced for the Astana Continental team since 2012 but was elevated to the WorldTour squad as a stagiaire on August 1 this year, and his positive test came while riding for Kazakhstan at the Tour de l'Avenir. A confirmed third positive test for Astana would trigger a month-long auto-suspension according to MPCC rules, but Vinokourov insisted that Davidenok's case would not qualify as such.

"Regardless of the result of the B sample, that's not a third positive test for Astana, it's for the Continental team," Vinokourov said. "They are two separate teams with different riders and different management but of course it does harm to the image of the country because it's another Kazakh rider. But there is more and more testing being carried out in Kazakhstan now."

2007 positive test

While Vinokourov is eager to paint Astana's impending appearance before the UCI Licence Commission as a consequence of the actions of the Iglinskiy brothers, he must be aware, too, that his own insalubrious doping record – and his subsequent reticence to discuss it – colours perceptions of his team's stance. In cycling, to borrow from William Faulkner, the past is never dead – it's not even past.

During this year's Tour, Vinokourov pointedly refused to discuss his 2007 positive test, and he adopted a similar position when Cyclingnews revisited the matter on Wednesday. "I paid for it with my two-year suspension. I can't pay for it all my life," Vinokourov said in a low voice.

Vinokourov gave short shrift, too, to the suggestion that he might now consider providing testimony to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), the body established by UCI president Brian Cookson to shed light on doping in cycling since 1998.

"To talk about what? My past? I passed my two years, I can't keep paying for it for all my life," Vinokourov said. "I was suspended for two years. I came back, and I worked on the image of the team. Maybe I was too naïve about the Kazakh riders on the team sometimes. It's been a big lesson. When you're a manager you have to be very strict with your riders."

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