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Vinokourov: The judge made the only fair decision

Alexander Vinokourov has been cleared of race fixing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alexander Vinokourov has said his acquittal on the count of bribing his way to victory at the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège represents "the only fair decision". 

The current Astana manager was cleared of fraud on Tuesday alongside Alexander Kolobnev, after Belgian prosecutors alleged Vinokourov had paid Kolobnev €150,000 to let him have the victory.

The prosecutors had called for both former riders to be fined and jailed for six months but, after a lengthy legal process, the judge ruled on Tuesday there was a lack of concrete evidence to establish guilt. 

"I’m very happy that finally judges made the only fair decision and we can finish this story," Vinokourov said in a short statement.

Referring to a successful season in which Astana have won 37 races, he added: "Looking forward for further successes and victories. We did the best season this year, but we still have a lot of work and goals. Keep going."

The allegation that Vinokourov bought off Kolobnev to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège - one of the five Monuments - were first made in 2011 when Swiss magazine L'Illustré reported that Kolobnev had been paid by Vinokourov, and published email exchanges between the two riders after the race.

"Here is a copy of all my bank information and clear it from your mail box, or my balls may be cut off," Kolobnev reportedly said in an email.

Vinokourov replied, saying: "You have done everything properly, do not worry. As you say, the Earth is round and God sees everything ... So, again thank you. You, this year you will win the championship finally, I believe. Do not worry about the agreement, I will do it."

The pair have always denied wrongdoing.

According to initial reports in Belgian media, the judge acquitted Vinokourov and Kolobnev because of three key elements; it was impossible to prove that any kind of corruption took place during the race; the email exchange could have been fake; and the defence lawyers proved that a €100,000 payment had been for a property investment. Vinokourov claimed the final payment of €50,000 was to pay back Kolobnev for a loan the Russian had made while Vinokourov was banned for doping.

"It's my private life," Vinokourov said during the investigation. "It's another story to blacken my name. I often loan money left and right." 

Vinokourov retired as a rider in 2012, after winning the Olympic road race title. He was banned for blood doping in 2007 but came back in 2009 and went on to win a stage at the 2010 Tour, as well as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Olympics. He has been general manager of the Astana team ever since.