Alexandre Vinokourov has expressed confidence in his team manager Manolo Saiz in the wake of 'Operacion Puerto', where Saiz was one of those arrested on doping-related charges. The affair has so far led to Liberty Seguros pulling its sponsorship out of the team, to be replaced by Kazakhstan concern Astana.
"I still trust team manager Manolo Saiz," Vinokourov said to L'Equipe. "I have read the newspapers just like everyone else, but I have also heard Saiz' version. He has assured me that he has nothing to do with the affair and I believe him. I've always believed him, from the moment that I started riding with him. He admitted that his visit to Fuentes was unfortunate, but has not given up the fight. I believe Saiz."
Vino added that he had never had any contract with Dr Fuentes, who is one of the key figures in the affair.
The new sponsorship to fill the gap left by Liberty Seguros was done remarkably quickly, and was due in a large part to Vinokourov. "I couldn't leave my team in the lurch a month before the start of the Tour," he said. "Because the prime minister of Kazakhstan is also the president of the cycling federation, we quickly found a solution."
The Astana-Wurth team will ride in their new jerseys in the Tour de Suisse, which starts this Saturday, and Kazakhstan's blue colours will feature prominently. Vinokourov will not take part in that race, as he is doing the Dauphiné Libéré. His only other pre-Tour race will be the Kazakhstan national championships.