A Swiss magazine has accused Alexander Vinokourov of buying his victory in the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the agency Sports-Information reported on Tuesday.
According to Agence France Presse, Sports-Information quoted L’Illustre‘s Wednesday edition as saying Vinokourov paid $134,000 to Alexander Kolobnev to ensure that the Katusha rider did not contest the finish.
The two men had escaped an elite lead group with some 15km to race and rolled under the red kite together with more than a minute’s advantage on a disorganized chase. It was an uphill finish, and in the final 500 meters Vinokourov attacked up the right side of the road and opened an insurmountable gap to take his second victory in Liège.
The Astana captain, who earlier in the week had won the Giro del Trentino, proclaimed afterward that he had “turned the page” after having been expelled from the 2007 Tour de France for blood doping and serving a two-year suspension.
“I’ve returned stronger than before and I’ve shown everybody that Vino’ is back,” he said. “This team was created for and also thanks to me. I’ve completed my punishment so I don’t see why I shouldn’t come back.”
His was not a popular victory, however.
Vinokourov was booed and jeered by some fans as he rode across the finish line, and afterward faced several questions by reporters who demanded to know how, less than a year after serving a two-year ban, he was riding with such gusto.
The Astana rider subsequently wrote an open letter in which he said he was “saddened” by press reports doubting the integrity of his win and had nothing to hide.
“I can’t do anything about the doubts surrounding me since what happened in 2007, but I totally refute any doubt surrounding me now, especially in the absence of proof,” he said. “In what other sport are you allowed to participate without the right to win?”
Asked by L’Illustre whether he had bought the controversial victory, Vinokourov said he had simply offered his fellow rider a loan and denied wrongdoing.
“I never did that in my career — I always fought to win,” he said.
L’Illustre based its report on an exchange of emails between the two racers dating back to the day after the race.
Kolobnev is alleged to have passed on details of his bank account in the Swiss city of Locarno, an account into which the payment was said to have been made.
Asked about the arrival of the cash in Kolobnev’s account, the 38-year-old Vinokourov said: “It’s my private life.”
He added: “It’s another story to blacken my name. I often loan money left and right.”