A report by Swiss magazine L'Illustre has accused former Astana rider Alexandre Vinokourov of buying his 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory.
Vinokourov flatly denied the claim saying: "I never did that in my career - I always fought to win."
The article claims that Vinokourov allegedly paid eventual runner-up Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) 100,000 Euro to ensure his position in the run to the finish line. The pair led the race working together to hold off the pursuit by Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and then-world champion Cadel Evans (BMC). An attack from Vinokourov within the final kilometre finally dropped Kolobnev in the uphill dash.
Speaking at the time, Kolobnev said it was a case of the stronger man winning.
"I couldn't follow him," Kolobnev said about Vinokourov's attack in the final kilometre. "We knew that if we would arrive together I could beat him. He was afraid of me but I was afraid of his attacks, too. When he had attacked earlier on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas I was already on my limit. Anyway, it's a nice podium with Vinokourov and Valverde there."
Citing an email exchange between the pair the day after the race, L'Illustre alleges that Kolobnev passed on account details for a bank located in the Swiss city of Locarno to which a payment was deposited.
Queried on the transaction, Vinokourov said there was nothing sinister in it.
"It's my private life," the Kazakhstani said before adding - "It's another story to blacken my name. I often loan money left and right."
Vinokourov’s win at the time was somewhat controversial, with pockets of the press suggesting that his was a remarkable comeback, following a two-year suspension for blood doping at the Tour de France in 2007. In retort, Vinokourov wrote an open letter saying:
"Ironically, my victory in Liège seems to revive old jealousies for which I am not responsible. The media comments contrast with the hundreds of congratulatory messages from fans that I keep getting on my website and my facebook page. I don’t understand this discrepancy.
"As if I had to be forbidden of success on my bike to leave everyone with a clear conscience. In which sport are we allowed to be at the start of a competition without the right to win."
Prior to the report in L'Illustre was published, Vinokourov launched an attack on what he views as the "gutter press" and claimed that his email account had been hacked – information which now appears to have stemmed from his interview with the Swiss magazine.
"I do not understand why some people are always looking to find some stories about me," Vinokourov said. "I am a cyclist, and there is no place in our sport for the gutter press. I don't ever allow myself to attack anyone personally. I wish to finish my career quietly even though obviously it bothers some people that I'm still on a bike."
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