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Tinkov sees silver lining to new drug cloud

By Gregor Brown in Angoulême

Oleg Tinkov put his hat into the ring this year when he decided to create a Professional Continental Team, Tinkoff Credit Systems. The 39 year-old, self-made business man put four million euro into the team for 2007 and has made the same promise for 2008, however, the Russian said the "Old Guardia" must leave the sport.

"I really think it is unique opportunity to clean my favourite sport," said Tinkov to Cyclingnews early Friday morning in an exchange of text messages coming on the heels of the Vinokourov, Moreni and Rasmussen doping-related news from the Tour de France.

He had already indicated in an earlier interview with Cyclingnews that he was ready to make changes within his team, including getting rid of some of his own riders who had been linked to scandals. "I don't want to see Hamilton, Jaksche, [Danilo] Hondo, or any guys with doping issues mentioned next to my name," he said last month.

"We have to leave these days and riders behind, [the ones] who still remember how to pull out EPO out of the pocket during the race," he said on Friday. "[The] Old Guardia must leave now. I think all Operación Puerto riders must leave the sport, including [Alejandro] Valverde." The Spaniard who rides for Caisse d'Epargne has been linked with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes but the Spanish Federation has never opened an investigation into his case.

He applauded the reincarnation of T-Mobile. "New people like [Tinkoff General Manager] Stefano Feltrin, [T-Mobile General Manager] Bob Stapleton must run the teams, not ex-doped cyclists like [Bjarne] Riis and these Belgians. ... [We need] new riders and new managers to the new and clean cycling!"

Prudhomme held a press conference Thursday morning in Pau, when he officially announced the news of Rasmussen's departure from the Tour de France. Tinkov stand behind the advances that the Frenchman and UCI President Pat McQuaid have made. "I glad what UCI and ASO are doing, and I personally [stand] behind McQuaid and Prudhomme, nevertheless it is still mess between them."

Tinkov continues to watch his favourite sport on television and he might pop by the finish in Paris, where he has a home.

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