Vinokourov tests positive for blood doping; Astana team abandons Tour de France

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Pre-race favorite Alexander Vinokourov has tested positive for homologous blood doping and is out of the Tour de France.

So much for the “big comeback” story of  this year's Tour.

The 33-year-old Kazahkstan cyclist failed a test administered after he won Saturday's individual time trial. At the time it was considered a superhuman effort by a competitor who had been counted out of the competition after crashing, then losing time in the Alps.

Meanwhile, the entire Astana team pulled out of the Tour. That means Andreas Kloden (5th overall) and Andrey Kashechkin (8th overall) are also out of the Tour. Vinokourov was in 23rd place.

Vinokourov won again on Monday in a breakaway win in the Pyrenees. No test results are yet available for that stage (the winner and yellow jersey are tested, among others). On Sunday's stage, in between his two wins, Vinokourov had failed miserably on the bike, dropping back more than a half hour.

Union Cycliste Internationale president Pat McQuaid, showed uncharacteristic restraint, telling VeloNews that he couldn't comment on the case until after the “B” sample is tested.

According to the press release issued by the Astana pro cycling team:

“The anti-doping control on Alexandre Vinokourov, which was carried out on July 21 after the time trial in Albi, has tested positive. “According to the ethical code of the Astana Cycling Team Alexandre Vinokourov has been suspended from the team with immediate effect. The rider has asked nevertheless for a B sample analysis.

“Informed by the Astana management, the organisers of the Tour de France invited the team to withdraw, which was immediately accepted.”

According to CyclingNews, the French sporting newspaper L'Equipe reported on Vino's blood showed evidence of a transfusion from another person with a compatible blood type.

The Astana team had its start with last year's Operacion Puerto scandal and was built around Vinokourov.

Vinokourov was a member of the Liberty Seguros cycling team last year. When the manager and several team members were implicated in that probe, Liberty Seguros pulled its sponsorship. Not wanting to see Vinokourov left out, several companies in his native Kazahkstan picked up sponsorship of the team.

Still, Astana could not compete at last year's Tour because too many of its riders were banned from the bike race because of the probe. Vinokourov was never linked to that probe.

At the Vuelta a Espana, the Astana team competed and Vinokourov won. The team also dominated the Dauphine Liberte one-week race in June.


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