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Vinokourov: Don't call me stupid

Alexander Vinokourov continues to deny blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France. The Kazakh rider, 35, is planning to come back to Team Astana after his one-year suspension, he said in an interview while attending a trade show in the Netherlands last week.

"Do you really think I was so stupid?" he asked in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "Everyone knows that you can easily be caught for a blood transfusion. What did I have left to win in the Tour to take such a risk? After my crash I had already lost my high GC ranking."

Vinokourov dropped from 12th to 81st after a crash in the 2007 Tour's fifth stage. He came back to win the stage 13 time trial. He crashed again the next day and lost nearly 29 minutes, but came back on the 15th stage to win the 'Queen Stage' in Le Louron.

Officials announced the next day that he tested positive for blood doping after the time trial.

Team Astana suspended Vinokourov and withdrew from the Tour. His national federation later gave him a one-year suspension. He recently announced his intentions to return with Team Astana this spring.

He has consistently denied doping and said that his early crash in the 2007 Tour, which caused deep cuts in his right knee, may have been responsible for the positive control. "I have no proof, but it is clear that my blood values were not in order after that fall," he said.

Vinokourov believes that his case was not thoroughly examined. The International Cycling Union (UCI) hardened its positions in light of Operación Puerto, he said, and he had to pay the price. "I was tested positive and I had to hang. ... I continue to say that the laboratory got it wrong."

"Some will always doubt my honesty. ... If I say that never used doping, some will never believe me. I have never used prohibited substances.

"I still want to prove myself on the bicycle. I want to show the world that I ride without doping and that I can still win the big races." (SW)