On the second rest day of the 2007 Tour de France, Alexandre Vinokourov was expelled from the race after returning a positive test for blood doping. Seven years on, the Kazakh is general manager of the yellow jersey’s team, Astana. It’s a funny old game, cycling.
Vinkourov was seated alongside Vincenzo Nibali during his rest-day press conference in Lignan-sur-Orb on Monday, at the 2014 Tour de France. After listening to the Italian’s responses, Vinokourov was asked if he had learnt anything from his own expulsion from the 2007 Tour, and whether he had versed his riders in the importance of winning clean.
“2007 is in the past and I don’t want to return to that topic,” Vinokourov said flatly, before pointing to Astana’s membership of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) as a sign of its good faith.
“As for the other question, since 2009 we’ve been in the MPCC [Astana, in fact, only joined the MPCC at the beginning of last season – ed.] and like the other teams in there we have worked a lot for the cleanliness of the team, we do the maximum with our doctors to follow the riders. I think we’ve done the maximum. Cycling has changed in the last five years and you can see that on the road. There are young riders coming and that’s great.”
After the formal conference ended, Vinokourov spoke with a smaller group of reporters, and was asked how he felt when his insalubrious past was brought up. Vinokourov served a two-year ban but returned to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the London 2012 Olympics road race, before becoming general manager of the Astana team.
“I responded with calm because as I said, the story is in the past. I was out for two years. I shut my mouth because everybody knows what happened,” Vinokourov said. “I came back and I won a lot of races afterwards. That was my response to the questions that are still being asked.”
Nibali was asked to justify riding for Vinokourov’s team at his press conference following stage 12 to Saint-Étienne. Speaking on Monday, Vinokourov said that such questions were normal for the maillot jaune of the Tour.
“I’m manager of a rider who is winning the Tour and if a French rider wins in the future, they’ll ask him the same questions. That’s normal. Me, I respond calmly,” Vinokourov said. “We follow all the UCI and MPCC rules, and perhaps it’s not correct that not every team is part of it. We have UCI and MPCC controls – what more can we do?”
Vinokourov’s original positive test dated from this very day seven years ago, when he surprisingly won the Tour’s time trial to Albi. Within three years, he was back at the race as a stage winner, and now he is on the point of winning it outright as a general manager. It’s a funny old game, cycling.