News swept through the media Wednesday that Belgian prosecutors have decided that Astana team manager Alexander Vinokourov and Katusha rider Alexandr Kolobnev must stand trial on corruption charges, according to an initial report on Sky Sports News. Astana sent a statement to Cyclingnews that Vinokourov's lawyer Jean-Louis Lodomez is "negatively surprised" by such reports in the press.
The statement read that, "Mr Vinokurov's lawyer, Jean-Louis Lodomez, is negatively surprised by comments made in the media attributed to the Public Prosecutor and the Investigating Judge."
The Belgian courts have been investigating the two riders since last year, on allegations that Vinokourov bought his 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory off of his breakaway companion Kolobnev for €100,000. A court in Liege picked up the case in 2014, and have been looking into two payments of €50,000 from Vinokourov to Kolobnev, and a third payment from the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation into Vinokourov’s bank account.
Both riders have denied buying or selling the race, however if found guilty, Vinokourov, who is now manager of the Astana team, and Kolobnev, a rider for Katusha, could face anywhere between six months and three years in prison and a fine of €300,000-€600,000.
Astana provided an in-depth explanation to the situation in a full statement to Cyclingnews, which noted that the Court Chamber has not yet decided on whether their is enough evidence to bring the case to court.
"The Court chamber of the Liege criminal Court had to decide on this September 11th on the questions to know if the investigation made by the Public Prosecutor and the Investigating Judge may be considered as completed or not, if they are sufficient elements in order to refer the case before a Criminal Court called to decide on the merits or if the charges needed to be dropped for lack of evidence.
"The Chamber has not taken any decision owing to the circumstance that the respective lawyers of the two incriminated cyclists had officially requested additional duties to find out the whole truth of this matter.
"In such a case, the Chamber has the obligation to postpone its decision until the reaction of the Investigating Judge and, in case of refusal from him, by the Court of Appeal, and that is what the Chamber did."