Rumours of a Kazakh coup at Astana began circulating today and they may just have some substance.

Disgraced Kazakh, Alexandre Vinokourov who was disqualified from the 2007 Tour de France after testing positive for an illicit blood transfusion, gave a press conference earlier in the week in which he stated his intention to return to the Astana team, which he helped to create in 2006.

Vinokourov’s ban ends on July 24 and is expecting to negotiate with the team about a possible comeback. A gentlemen’s agreement between the ProTour teams meant that riders returning from the sport following a doping conviction would not be able to ride for a ProTour for a further two years after their ban; this agreement was destroyed when Liquigas signed Ivan Basso last year.

“I have no guarantee yet because I expect to negotiate with Bruyneel in the coming days. But it’s not possible that he disagrees. If [he] doesn’t want me, it will be up to him to leave the team,” said the Kazakh.

These comments could be largely dismissed as posturing but a statement from the Kazakh President no less seem to add weight to the rumours of a Kazakh take-over at Astana.

According to L’Equipe, President Nursultan Nazarbaiev proposed re-structuring the team around Alberto Contador without Lance Armstrong and Bruyneel.

“We are going to approach Alberto Contador and propose lengthening his contract,” said Nazarbaiev.

“He will be our sole leader for the years to come, he will have every liberty to choose the riders that he wants to have at his side.

“In our mind, the team will be made up of Spanish and Kazakh riders, amongst those Alexandre Vinokourov”.

Bruyneel has been adamant in the past that Vinokourov would be unwelcome at the re-modelled Astana, but according to the Kazakh President, the new team structure should be in place from September.

If rumours of a Kazakh coup prove to be correct, Bruyneel and Armstrong would have to create their own team, something they were on the verge of doing after the Giro d’Italia as Astana’s backers had failed to pay outstanding sponsorship money.

  • cyclingken

    Today Armstrong told the French press that Nike would sponsor a new team, and the he and Bruyneel would be on that team. It was on Armstrong’s tweet but since removed. It all fits with the Astana news above.

  • Duke

    Vino is the Astana team. He has suffered because of the team as well as because of himself. A clean Vino means an even deeper Astana team. A dream team! If Vino can prove himself, their is room for Cantador, Lance and Vino. Bruyneel will want the best team. I think it is up to Vino what man returns on july 24th! My guess will be a man who wants to ride with the best ,and be the best to save his legacy.

  • Lilly

    I´am so happy that Vino is comming back!!! He is the best rider ever!!!
    In Vino veritas

  • On the Oche

    BigRingEd – LA may have never tested positive but it doesn’t mean he isn’t a filthy cheat. If you think he won all those TDF’s on bread and water alone you are deluded.

  • William Hirst

    Team Astana could either have a champion like Contador and the media attention thus sponsor attracting presence of Armstrong or they can have a drug taking loser like Vinokourov. Perhaps Borat is in charge.

  • BigRingEd

    Blueryder – are you mad! A convicted cheat like Vinokourov is worth having!?! Just to get rd of Armstrong – remember Armstrong has neve and I repeat, Never been caught cheating. Something Vinokourov probably wishes he could say.

  • Brian Reynolds

    I think that Borat will be the team director!!!

  • Jockey

    I was a big Vino fan prior to his positive test and to be honest I’d rather he just disappeared but the thought of him pulling rank on Bruyneel and Armstrong is quite delicious.

  • Lorenzo Sans

    The last thing the ASTANA team was needing before the tour is this guy holding a press conference in Monaco to announce his return to races, don’t they have already enough mess to deal with ??….I do hope that for next year Contador signs for a new team where he can work in peace without having to stand the comments of the arrogant yankee and Vino’s foolish mentality.

  • Martin S

    this makes it clear that there is still no real deterrent for doping. the only message it sends out is that getting caught is an inconvenience

  • Simon Evans

    I can’t believe this idiot is back already. 2 year bans are simply not long enough! He should have been banned for life for the demage he caused to our sport.
    The Astana team was created for Vinokourov, so its obvious he’ll be straight back in. Bruyneel and Armstrong would do well to bail as soon as the Tour is done.

  • Dan

    Am I missing something – I thought that returnees from drug bans were prevented from riding for ProTour teams for an additional year – or has that fallen by the wayside?

  • blueryder

    Although I do not want to see the return of Vinokourov, if it gets rid of Armstrong then its a price worth paying.