By Nigel Wynn
Alexandre Vinokourov has issued an open letter saying that he is 'saddened' at the comments made against him in the press
after his win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday
The Kazakh rider failed a doping control for homologous blood transfusion at the 2007 Tour de France and was subsequently suspended for two years. The letter, issued on Monday and reproduced in full below, is the closest that Vinokourov has come to admitting that he doped and that he is sorry for his past actions.
Many felt that Vinokourov had no right to return to a ProTour-level team after failing a dope test, and many more thought that he should not take part in top-level races. His win was met with jeers from road-side fans on the finish line.
When the news broke at the 2007 Tour that Vinokourov had failed a dope test, the entire Astana team were kicked out of the race and were not invited to the 2008 Tour as a result. His positive test caused widespread shock - Vinokourov's attacking style of riding had won him many fans.
After serving his two-year suspension, Vinokourov returned to professional cycling in August 2009 in the team that he helped to create - Astana. His win in Liege is his most high-profile victory since returning to competition.
Vinokourov's letter, issued via the Astana team communication department, is reproduced in full below.
"While reading the press comments regarding my last victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege I was deeply saddened. I don't understand this persecution against me.
I can't do anything against the doubts hanging over me since the 2007 case, but I reject all the accusations brought against me today, without any evidence. Since my return in August, I have always been honest with the press, I responded to all requests for interviews, I have hidden nothing.
Ironically, my victory in Liège seems to revive old jealousies for which I am not responsible. The media comments contrast with the hundreds of congratulatory messages from fans that I keep getting on my website and my Facebook page. I don't understand this discrepancy.
As if I had to be forbidden of success on my bike to leave everyone with a clear conscience. In which sport are we allowed to be at the start of a competition without the right to win?
I love cycling, it gave me everything and I want to give its good things in return. I paid two years on suspension for the dark years of my career. If I repeated that I didn't want to talk about it, it's only for the sake of my sport. I don't think cycling needs to reconsider all these dirty stories to move forward. This is my personal vision of this problem, everybody is not obliged to share it. Obviously my attitude that I consider the most correct and most respectful way possible is one more time misinterpreted. I'm sorry.
Again, I have nothing to hide. Since my come back I have been the subject of more than 30 doping tests, all negatives, including 21 in the context of the Adams. This allows me to validate my biological passport and therefore to run. In Tenerife, where I had my recent training before the Tour of Trentino that rosed the indignation of some journalists, I was subject to two unannounced blood and urine tests in two weeks. I can't do more than what the sport regulations ask me, to prove my honesty.
Today, I only wish to be respected as I respect everyone, my colleagues in the peloton as the journalists. I don't want to be the only and too easy target for all the ills of cycling."
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