Alexander Vinokourov, the aggressive Kazakh cyclist who had the Astana WorldTour team built around him, is fielding allegations that he bought the 2010 Classic one-day race Liege-Bastogne-Liege from breakaway partner Alexandr Kolobnev. Vinokourov has vehemently denied the charges made by the Swiss magazine L’Illustre based on hacked e-mails between the two riders. In the e-mail exchange Russian racer Kolobnev gives Vino his banking information, apparently so the Kazakh can deposit $134 000 US.
It was Vinokourov’s second Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory and came just months after returning to professional cycling from a two-year suspension for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France. Kolobnev, who has never won a Classic, is currently embroiled in his own doping scandal, as the Russian cycling federation only fined him and won’t suspend him for testing positive for the banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide at this year’s Tour de France. The UCI has appealed the Russian federation’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Though it’s common for one rider to “gift” a stage win to another if that rider has done most of the work in the two-man breakaway, or if one rider is after a general classification win and the other only wants stage wins, a pay-off is against UCI’s rules.
In the e-mail exchange Kolobnev allegedly reveals his feelings about not contesting the uphill sprint after he and Vino had held off riders such as Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert and Cadel Evans: “for me it was a great chance. I do not know if I was right to do what I did . . . my only comfort is that you won and not [a Belgian].”
Vinokourov has expressed outrage at his privacy being invaded and has dismissed the pay-off charge, explaining, “I often make payments left and right, sometimes I lend money.” Vinokourov announced his retirement after crashing out of this year’s Tour, but has changed his mind and will race next season with the intention of attending the London Olympics.