Vinokourov accused of paying off Russian rival


CYCLING: The Olympic road race gold medallist Alexandr Vinokourov has been accused by an Italian newspaper of paying off a rival to ensure victory in a one-day classic race in Belgium in 2010.

Corriere della Sera have reported that Vinokourov allegedly paid the Russian rider Alexandr Kolobnev €150,000 (£120,000) to ease off in the final sprint in the prestigious Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic in April 2010 and allow the Kazakh rider to win.

The newspaper published emails which they alleged showed the race had been fixed, and that they had exchanged details of their banks. Swiss authorities had provided details of the transfers, according to the newspaper.

The victory was Vinokourov’s biggest after returning from a two-year ban for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France. He won the race with a long sprint to the line, finishing six seconds ahead of Kolobnev.

Vinokourov (39) retired from top-flight cycling after winning the road race at the London Olympics in August after a long and controversial career. He won four stages in the Tour de France and the overall title at the Vuelta a España in 2006. He tested positive for blood doping during the 2007 Tour, but made a comeback two years later.

Details of the alleged fraud have been forwarded to Belgian authorities and the International Cycling Union (UCI) .

The allegations were first reported in a Swiss magazine, L’illustre. The UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said the governing body had asked L’illustre for evidence of the case two years ago but were turned down.

“It’s a very old story,” he said.

The first email was sent on 26th April 2010, the day after the race, from Kolobnev (31), who rides for Team Katusha, to Vinokourov. Kolobnev allegedly wrote: “Remember well, I had a great chance . . . I didn’t do it for the contract but rather for the situation you found yourself in . . . if it had been someone else in your place I would have raced for the win, for the glory and the bonuses . . . now I’m waiting patiently. Take my transfer information and put them somewhere else and erase the email.”

Vinokourov is said to have responded 12 days later. “Hi Kolobok, sorry that I took so long to respond,” Vinokourov allegedly wrote. “Don’t worry, you did everything right . . . as far as the agreement goes, don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything.”

Investigators claim they have “undeniable proof” of the fraud, the report said.

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