World cycling governing body the International Cycling Union (UCI) are to investigate claims made by Swiss and Italian newspapers that retired Olympic cycling champion Alexandre Vinokourov paid off a rival to win his second Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic in 2010.
The UCI — under pressure to clean up the image of the sport in the wake of the Lance Armstrong affair — said it had summoned both riders to Switzerland “to explain themselves regarding the events concerning them.”
The body, which faces a US$2 million claim for damages from an Australian clothing firm over allegations the organization failed to crack down on doping, also told reporters it had received a dossier on the matter from the Italian state prosecutor’s office in Padua.
UCI said it would assess any information to which it was privy on the matter “constructively and transparently” in order to “safeguard the integrity of the sport.”
Vinokourov, banned for blood doping between 2007 and 2009, faces claims he paid Russian rival Alexandre Kolobnev 150,000 euros (US$191,800) to secure his second victory in cycling’s oldest one-day classic.
The initial accusations were made by Swiss magazine L’Illustre last year — since when UCI says it has been looking into the affair.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera followed up this week as it published e-mails between the riders that appears to support the accusations.
A first e-mail sent from Kolobnev to Vinokourov the day after the race allegedly reads: “I don’t know if I did the right thing. I didn’t do it for the contract [money], but out of respect for you and for the situation you were in. Even my wife was disappointed I finished second.”
Vinokourov’s second victory in “La Doyenne” was his biggest win since he returned from a doping ban a year earlier.
The same e-mail from Kolobnev, which allegedly contained details of a bank account in Switzerland, adds: “Now I’m waiting patiently. Take my details and delete this email.”
Vinokourov reportedly answered several days later: “Hi Kolobok [Kolobnev’s nickname] I’m sorry I didn’t answer you earlier. Don’t worry, you did the right thing... You said yourself that what goes around comes around and God sees everything. I will respect our deal. You’ll have to wait a while. Vino.”
The newspaper claims two payments were then made to Kolobnev, the first of 100,000 euros on July 12, 2010, and the second of 50,000 euros on Dec. 28, 2010.
After his Liege win, Vinokourov — when asked about its significance after his doping ban — refused to discuss details of his doping past, telling reporters: “It’s proof you can win without doping.”
Vinokourov, Kazakhstan’s biggest sports star of his generation, stunned the field at the Olympic road race in August to win gold, then announced his retirement from the sport and is set to manage the Astana team next year.