The bribery case against Alexandre Vinokourov has come to an end after nine years.
The Kazakh was cleared of fixing the result of the 2010 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in November and the case has now been closed after an appeal was rejected by the court.
Vinokourov won the Belgian race in 2010 six seconds ahead of Alexandr Kolobnev, the Russian also recently cleared of any wrongdoing.
The judge acquitted the two men due to lack of evidence, the case having revolved around accusations that Vinokourov paid Kolobnev €150,000 to let him win the race. Kolobnev's lawyer, Guillaume Reynders, has now spoken of his relief after the appeal was rejected.
"We were not comfortable with it, because the Public Prosecution Service had really gotten involved in the matter," Reynders told Het Laatste Nieuws (opens in new tab). "No expense or effort was spared to declare the two riders guilty. Completely out of proportion, which made it awkward for us to wait until the last moment. On the other hand, the Liège judge had strengthened our trust last month with a 30-page judgment."
The prosecution said Vinokourov and Kolobnev had been talking a lot as the pair sped towards the finish line in Liège but the judge ruled they were talking no more than the chasing group behind.
They also highlighted the riders had exchanged bank account numbers on pieces of paper but the judge said he could not deduce whether they were original documents from the time of the race and they couldn't prove anything.
€150,000 had been seized from Kolobnev's bank account, an amount Vinokourov says he transferred to the Russian as partly a loan and also an investment in a new company Kolobnev was starting, which has now been returned to the rider.
According to The Washington Post (opens in new tab), a spokesperson for the Liège prosecutor’s office said the men were given "the benefit of the doubt."
With the case closed, Vinokourov will now return to focusing on another season as the manager of the Astana WorldTour team, while also balancing being coach to a number of triathletes.
The 46-year-old was banned for two years after testing positive for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France.
Vinokourov then won the 2012 Olympic road race in London, announcing his retirement as he collected his medal.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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