UCI looking into alleged Liege-Bastogne-Liege race bribe
Olympic road race champion Alexandre Vinokourov is under investigation for allegedly bribing a rival to fix a race, as ongoing fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping affair threatens to claim another of cycling's biggest names.
The International Cycling Union pledged to open its own probe into revived allegations that the London Games gold medalist from Kazakhstan paid off his opponent in a two-man breakaway to ensure he won the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic.
The UCI acted after receiving a file on the case from an Italian prosecutor who is leading a wider investigation of corruption in cycling linked to Dr. Michele Ferrari, a former adviser to Armstrong.
"The UCI takes these issues extremely seriously," the governing body said in a statement and added "We will ask Alexandre Vinokourov and Alexandr Kolobnev to attend a meeting at our headquarters in Aigle as soon as possible to provide the UCI with their response to the contents of the Padua inquiry dossier."
Vinokourov allegedly paid Russia's Kolobnev nearly US$200,000 after arranging a fix during their breakaway in the April 2010 one-day race. The allegations were first made by a Swiss magazine last year and were denied by Vinokourov, who threatened to take legal action.
Italian daily Corriere della Sera published further information Saturday, including details of emails it claimed were exchanged by the riders in the days after the race.
"The UCI has been requesting information concerning these media allegations since December 2011, when they were first raised by the Swiss magazine L'Illustre," the governing body said. "To date, the information provided to UCI was not sufficient to take legal action.
"Now, in the light of this additional information, gathered as part of the Padua inquiry, we will open an official inquiry into this issue."
The probe could reveal further corruption at the top of professional cycling as the sport struggles to deal with the Armstrong doping affair.
Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti helped the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in building the case that led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last month.
The Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory was Vinokourov's biggest after returning from a two-year suspension for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France. He won the Belgian race with a long sprint to the line, finishing six seconds ahead of Kolobnev.
Vinokourov retired from professional cycling soon after winning the road race in London in July. The 39-year-old rider, who won silver in the road race at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has iconic status in his native Kazakhstan and has been expected to pursue a career in national politics.
If the UCI probe leads to sanctions for Vinokourov, the International Olympic Committee could examine whether he should have been eligible to race in London.