The Moment The Race Was Sold

Vinokourov Kolobnev 2010 Liege

The UCI is investigating allegations that Alexandr Kolobnev sold the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège race to Alexander Vinokourov after an apparent chain of emails between the riders was past to them by judicial authorities in Italy.

Fixing the result of a sports event is a criminal offence in many countries and Russia is due to pass a law on the matter soon. But in cycling there’s a different attitude, a cultural tolerance that can allows riders to trade results and agree deals in a race. Is this acceptable?

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UCI waive their own rules to let Kolobnev join Katusha

How good is your maths? If you can count, have a go at the number of riders listed on the Katusha team as of tonight on the UCI website. I make it 28 riders and one neo, a total of 29 riders.

All seems normal so far. Only the Russian team today announced it has signed Alexander Kolobnev. And that is against the UCI rules.

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The Kolobnev case

Kolobnev police

Flashback to July and Alexander Kolobnev tested positive in the Tour de France. It was the only doping scandal of the 2011 race and the media besieged the Château de Salles, the Katusha team’s overnight accommodation. Some riders and team staff went to police station, adding to the tension.

Except now the verdict has fallen and it’s far less dramatic: a warning and a fine of 1,500 Swiss Francs (US$1,700). We will get further details of the case in two weeks when the Russian authorities publish their verdict in full. But this is the lightest option possible, a small fine and no suspension. This suggests Kolobnev presented satisfactory evidence to prove he accidentally ingested the banned substance. But the case highlights a lot more.

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Friends in high places

Russian leaders

Alexander Kolobnev has been in Russia since he tested positive in the Tour de France. We’ve not heard much more. Under the anti-doping rules the deadline for his hearing has expired and the Russian cycling authorities risk a fine for any more delays.

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Variable rules for Contador and Kolobnev?

At least his saddle is horizontal

Alexsandr Kolobnev has “suspended himself” from competition but I suspect the decision wasn’t taken that freely. After all, here’s the UCI’s press release on the matter:

The UCI Anti-Doping Rules do not provide for a provisional suspension given the nature of the substance, which is a specified substance. However the UCI is confident that his team will take the necessary steps to enable the Tour de France to continue in serenity

You don’t need to be Nico Machiavelli to realise the first sentence contradicts the second, that Kolobnev is free to continue under the rules yet the UCI is waiting for his team to take the “necessary steps”. Or more poetically, to throw Kolobnev down the staircase.

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