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Vinokourov retires, vows to fight on

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) (Image credit: Unipublic)

Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov made a surprise decision to retire on Thursday after being handed a one year sentence by his national federation for blood doping. Vinokourov, who tested positive for homologous blood transfusion during the 2007 Tour de France, was handed the suspension on Thursday by the Kazakh Cycling Federation.

Vinokourov's lawyer, Maurice Suh, who is well known for defending another rider disgraced with a Tour de France doping positive, Floyd Landis, released a statement following the sentence which indicated Vinokourov would continue to race. "Mr. Vinokourov looks forward to the end of his suspension and to the opportunity begin returning to racing once his suspension is completed," however Vinokourov subsequently indicated that he would retire rather than return to the sport.

The one year sanction would have ended on July 21, 2008, early enough to allow the former Astana star to participate in the Olympic Games in Beijing – a controversial decision by a federation trying its first ever doping case. But the decision is likely to be appealed by the UCI.

The UCI's spokesman Enrico Carpani expressed surprise at the Kazakh's short sentence. Cycling's other transfusion positives, American Tyler Hamilton and Spaniard Santi Perez, have resulted in two-year sentences. "We are very shocked and surprised. We wonder where the Kazakh federation has found elements to deliver such a sanction," Carpani told AFP .

The UCI indicated that it would appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and Vinokourov subsequently announced he would retire. "Alexander Vinokourov will stop competing and will retire, but says he will continue to fight for his honour," L'Equipe reported.

The 34 year-old has always maintained his innocence, and won the support of the Kazakh government and its cycling federation following his positive test. However, the Kazakh federation was under pressure to appease the UCI, saying that it had made the decision to sanction the rider because, according to vice-president Nikolai Proskurin, "The documents and evidence presented by Vinokourov and his lawyers were not convincing," but added that the decision to sanction was made, "so that the Kazakh federation is not suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI)."

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