Vinokourov says Kashechkin a risk for Astana

Alexandre Vinokourov says he expects former Astana teammate Andrey Kashechkin will be forced to find another team for the 2010 season. In an interview with Kazakh website Vinokourov also stated that if Alberto Contador remains with the team in 2010, he will be fully committed to the Spainard's attempt at a third Tour de France victory.

Vinokourov and Kashechkin were both dismissed from Astana in 2007 for blood doping. Both riders served two-year suspensions for their respective offences, though, only Vinokourov has been able to make a return to the sport's professional ranks after he re-joined Astana in time to start at this year's Vuelta a España in August.

Vinokourov was quoted by as saying that International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid had expressed opposition to Kashechkin re-joining the team because of the team's chequered doping history.

"McQuaid was opposed to Kashechkin being part of Astana. The team said he had told them 'you already have a racer who will have recently returned from suspension', referring to me," said Vinokourov.

"If Astana sign a contract with Kashechkin, I think the team will have problems in the coming season. For that reason, I think Kashechkin will have to look for another team."

McQuaid today acknowledged that he had warned Astana's management that the recruitment of riders with a doping history could affect the renewal of their ProTour licence, but denied that he had referred to any specific riders during his meetings with Astana officials.

"That was one of the subjects that I discussed with them earlier in the year," McQuaid told Cyclingnews. "It wasn't specific names, it was simply that they need to bear in mind that they had former riders coming back and that Astana has a [doping] history.

"If they wanted to remain in the ProTour it would have to be the complete opposite of the situation before. It was specifically that they want to be very careful about the history of the riders who are in the team."

McQuaid is not a member of the ProTour licence commission responsible for the issue and renewal of ProTour licences. Led by a Swiss Federal Judge the three-member commission acts independent of the UCI to determine teams' eligibility and suitablity for ProTour status.

The ProTour licence commission are due to make a final determination on Astana's ProTour status on November 20. The decision is expected to decide whether or not the team's top ranked rider, Alberto Contador, will see out the final year of his contract with the team.

Despite the months of conjecture that have focused upon Contador's apparent anxiety to leave the team as soon as possible, Vinokourov feels he will be content to stay if he can be convinced of the team's stability.

"I think he's waiting to see how the Astana management behave," he said. "If all issues are settled before the deadline, its likely Contador will remain at our team. He just wants to be assured of the team's future."

Vinokourov said that if the Spaniard remains, he will have the full support of the team. "If Contador remains part of Astana, we will help him win the Tour de France."

Vinokourov said a good performance at Giro d'Italia would be high on his personal agenda for 2010, but that a start at the Tour de France would be the ultimate satisfaction since his return to the sport in August.

"I would like to finish high in the general classification at the Giro d'Italia. But if there is a chance to start in the Tour de France, I will try to win a stage or two. For me, I would be overjoyed to simply be able to start again at the Tour; I've missed its unique atmosphere."

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