Outside of the entire population of Kazakhstan (17.5 million) nobody wanted Alexandre Vinokourov win the Olympic Games road race. And that wasn’t just because the mainstream media had force-fed the British public the line that Mark Cavendish was a bet-your-shirt dead cert – hence the reason we were treated to the dim bulb ‘Cav fails’ headlines in the numbskull press.

The fact it was Vinokourov who beat the Manx Missile to the line made the GB team ‘failure’ all the more galling. Bloody Vinokourov. Vino the doper. The rider who smashed his knees to putty in the 2007 Tour de France but somehow went on to win two stages before being thrown off the race, guilty of homologous blood doping (basically transfusing someone else’s blood). He and his state-sponsored Astana team were asked (politely?) to leave the Tour. Then, after much court action involving WADA, the Kazak cycling federation, the UCI and the Court for Arbitration of Sport, Vino eventually copped and served a two-year ban.

But the man is a superstar in his home country and, since the Astana team is sponsored by a conglomeration of businesses in the oil rich state, Vino couldn’t (or wouldn’t) leave the sport in utter disgrace. So he came back and raced again in August 2009. “I love cycling, I want to come back because I didn’t want my career to end in this way,” said Vinokourov in 2009.

Since then, the Kazak has been riding with the same biological passport as the rest of the pro peloton and written an open letter to the world after his 2010 win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege attracted so much negative publicity. The rock-hard Kazak actually seemed hurt by the coverage his win received. “I can’t do anything against the doubts hanging over me since the 2007 case… I paid two years on suspension for the dark years of my career. If 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.”

Basically Vino reckons that since he had served his time “for the dark years” in his career, wasn’t he entitled to come back, like so many others and be given the benefit of the doubt?

Well, since he put it like that, you have to ask, why wasn’t he given the benefit of the doubt? Since his return, the rider who twice finished on the podium of the Tour de France and won the 2006 Vuelta has been nowhere near the same level of performance. The rider who won a bronze medal at the 2006 World time trial has been way off the pace in every time trial he’s ridden. In the 2012 Tour he was 30th at 3-47 from Wiggins on stage nine and 60th at 6-09 at Chartres. In short, his performances suggest that he’s riding clean.

So why the opprobrium? Well, since David Millar set the gold standard in repentant ex-dopers, since Bradley Wiggins and Sky have declared loud and proud that they are clean, Vino’s ‘vision’ is clearly not shared by the media. But ask yourself this, if another ex-blood doper (guilty of “attempted doping” if you please), another rider who has served a ban and returned to a high level (third in the 2009 Giro d’Italia, fourth in the 2009 Vuelta and winning the 2010 Giro) had won, if, in short, Ivan Basso had won the London Olympic Games road race, would he have been damned as fiercely as the Kazak, our Borat on performance enhancing drugs? You have to doubt it.

Would it have been better for the sport if Rigoberto Uran had won? Certainly, because the young Colombian’s is a great story. But did Vino deserve the coverage he got? I don’t think so.

  • Angharad

    Apart from using drugs and other people’s blood, didn’t he also pay another rider to let him win a stage in one of the big tours? He’s just a cheat.

    Can’t stand the man, I’d rather have seen Basso win it.

  • Vino

    what a ridiculous comment that nobody outside of his homeland wanted him to win, you need to get off your high horse. and carry on focusing on that sportive drivel you publish. your staff are obviously deadwood and basically trying to drive a hate campaign. you do not know anything of the history of the sport. you bigots.

  • hugh anderson

    WELL HERE WE GO ANOTHER,A BRIT SHOULD HAVE WON THE GOLD MEDAL,WELL A BRIT DIDNT WIN THE OLYMPIC ROAD RACE,AND IM FOR ONE GLAD.IF ANOTHER RIDER WINS ITS EITHER THEY HAVE DOPED OR SKY WERE TIRED OUT THAT DAY.IT WAS GREAT TO SEE VINO WIN.
    IF YOU CONSIDER WE HAD A BRITISH DOPER IN THE ROAD RACE HOW TWO FACED CAN YOU GET.
    AND CORRECT ME IF AM WRONG BUT YOU SOLD LOADS OF MAGAZINES WHEN LANCE WAS AT THE TOP.
    OH AND FORGET THE “THE SECRET RACE BOOK”,ITS TO FILL HAMILTONS BANK BALANCE,AND ITS THE UCIS FAULT THAT RIDERS DOPED.WRONG THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING.
    THEY THINK BY GETTIN G A BIGGER NAME(MAINLY LANCE)THAT THER CASE SHOULD BE EXCUSED
    AND THE VUELTA WAS THE BEST RACE BY FAR,BUT THEN AGAIN A BRIT DIDNT WIN IT.AND THE REASO RIDERS CANT PERFORM LIKE THEY DID IS AGE,NOT DRUGS.ANYWAY CW.IS STILL A GOOD MAG LOOK FORWARD TO IT.

  • geoffrey smith

    i did so there..stupid..G

  • catherine mooney

    Cannot let the comment by Frank Green passed unremarked upon…..there is no connection between Sean Yates and Vino. None at all. Mr Green suggests that Yates is in the same bracket of doping cheats as the Kazakh rider. I beg to differ. Yates was of an older generation and retired in 1995/6 jut as rEPO use was becoming widespread. He and other seasoned pros like Anderson decided that, at their stage in their careers, it simply wasn’t worth getting into the new blood-doping that allowed ‘the Italians to ride 2mph faster than us for no apparent reason’ according to Anderson. I’m not saying Yates was a saint- he was a pro when you could count the clean pros on one hand and probably have fingers left over. That said there is no evidence at all to link him to nefarious characters like Vino and its a smear to say otherwise. I believe, having read Ward’s excellent ‘From Lance to Landis’, that this era from 1995 to the rise of clean teams like Sky – in no small part thanks to Yates- and Garmin, should be blown wide open and names named- starting with the real vilians of the sport, such as Mr Armstrong.

  • stuart stanton

    With a record like his……….he was fortunate to get through customs, The Yanks would have had him on the first plane out. What happened to the bloke who won Liege this year? Another almost unbelieveable Astana performance, nowhere to be seen since

  • Mike

    Typical cycling fans.

    Doping, dopers and ex dopers are all ok. Its part of the sport. Always has been.

  • angus

    at the end of the day a clean race
    who dares wins he attacked and won!

  • Pete GREENWOOD

    Vino, yes he did.

  • Ka popovic

    Vino, doping or not, was a star for the way he rode, his insane antics and his willingness to attempt the impossible. I’m glad he got to go out with a bang. never a better ending for this man’s story and I look forward to seeing him in the team cars. He’s a legend for the way he rode.

  • adam

    How much did Vinokourov think about us lot when he was doping? Or Millar? Or Basso when he was ‘thinking’ about doping? No time for them…

    And it’s all well and good saying we used to praise him for his attacks and punchy riding style, but that’s the same as blindly praising Pantani for his climbing. Those styles and the ability to do those things were the result of certain enhancements.

    I have no problem with saying he’s clean now and a part of the passport system that proves he is. Also, he might well be very tactically astute.That’s not the issue though.

  • roginoz

    vino has a clean passport . he used tactical skill and an attacking have-a-go attitude to win. he did not need nursing to the line .neither did merckx kelly hoban abdu etc.vino won repeat won. well done .some greats have done the wrong thing and paid the price . there is more pressure on these people than we know ..some succumb to it with a bad decision . are all the critics perfect? have they all never made a mistake in life? (and paid with their conscience over time)

  • jackie

    i am glad vino WON, good for him, oh and what would you hyprocrites say if armstrong is guilty, and what if cav ever tested positive, he was late for a doping test before the tour last year!!!

  • Alistair

    Disappointed with the sour grapes over Vinokourov’s win. It was a typically brave, aggressive performance. Cycle racing could use more attacking riders like him.

  • William Hirst

    I like so many others I didn’t like Vino winning. But he has served his time and apologized. He is now clean and deserves a fresh start like Millar and any victories he earns.

    Answer to the question from Sandy, Rigoberto Uran will spend his hard earned cash looking after his family.

  • Mike

    No time for Vino. Its his attitude that sickens me.

    No one is doubting that Pantani doped, I believe he was bi polar, and his mood swings did not help this.
    Also he paid the ultimate price, dieing alone and drugged up in a shabby hotel room.
    The difference is that Marco was/is loved by lots of cycling fans for his ability, and his vulnerability that ultimately destroyed him.
    I still remember his shy smile on the podium when he first claimed the Pink jersey. He was also reputed to have given a huge amount of his own money to charity without any fanfare or media attention. In his own words “Good work should be done quietly”.

    Please dont speak ill of the dead.

  • Paul

    “Outside of the entire population of Kazakhstan (17.5 million) nobody wanted Alexandre Vinokourov win the Olympic Games road race” What a load of tosh. Glad I don’t buy the paper version of your magazine anymore. I suggest the ignoramus who wrote this load of tripe read the comments of Vino fans above and other cycle racing sites both in the UK and abroad before he makes such rediculous statements.

  • ken hillier

    wots going on ..vino got busted served his time came back big crash came back got a l-b-l win coz he attacks and holds on ..just like he got a champs win over brad mcgee back in the day (2005 )(attacks and holds on ) then hello does the same thing at the limpics and he is a douche ???i saw a guy who read a race really well attacked on last hill to get in break sat in then attacked and held on then sprinted to a well earned victory …any rider in that race who has the shits for vino winning should have chased down the break and gone with him and uran ..nuff said well done vino AND uran for having a go

  • frank green

    sky have a massive link to vino, bruneel and armstrong- hes called sean yates and im sure he didnt see a thing.
    CW this is an unusual stance and im sure this has alot to do with sean yates at sky. Vilifying vino and you are vilifying yates.

  • Matt

    I think Vinokourov deserves all he gets from the fan and the media. As others have said, he lied and cheated. Clearly he’s an excellent bike rider, but it’s impossible to trust any of his results – certainly from his T-Mobile days when he was widely admired, including by me, for his aggressive and daring riding. To me he’s a sad figure now, riding for himself and searching for that one redemptive win that he thinks will make up for everything. His Olympic victory again shows us once again that life and sport is simply not fair.
    Note you can also buy Marco Pantini t-shirts like it never happened either….

  • JD

    Got to disagree on this one Cycling Weekly.

    Sure Vino is not the only ex-doper and of course nobody says that simply apologising on its own allows us to overlook David Millar. But hold on a minute, there’s more to this guy than a bit of doping.

    1. Vino is a central character in a team that has had its share of other doping issues which builds into a troubling picture. Go and ask Contador, or Armstrong for that matter. That bothers people.

    2. There is a serious possibility that Vino’s whole career was built on doping without which we would never have heard of him.

    He’s far from alone but let’s not apologise for the guy.

  • Robert

    ‘Vino’ has been under the bio-passport scheme for as long as anyone else. Either accept his well-deserved win with good grace. (If only because he actually raced rather than following the negative strategy team GB adopted and for some reason expected everyone else to follow as well.) Alternatively, admit that the bio-passport scheme is flawed and we still can’t have any faith in the sports champions. Of course this would also mean that the exploits of Wiggins, Froome and so on must also be open to doubt…

  • Alaric Smith

    Great commentry on someone who, despite the “doping” issue, has managed to recover from some very serious injuries (what about the femur last year?) He has still not had a case “proven” against him. Some of the claims were, frankly, ridiculous; notably some very silly UCI/WADA claims that it was his Dad’s blood. Well done Vino: Shame about your past but well done.

  • Mark Hopkins

    Cycling, and cycling fans (including myself) are full of inconsistencies. In a list of the following names I bet everyone reading this will have a hero, but they have all broken anti doping rules in some way; Vino, D. Millar, Rassmussen, Ricco (ok maybe no ones hero :) ), Pantani, Ullrich, Veranque, Riijs, Basso, Simpson etc etc etc. We have to accept that doping in any form by anyone is a bad thing. The only way to do that in my opinion is lifetime bans from the sport, in any form, rider, DS, trainer owner etc. Perhaps then we can move on. However until then ‘Congrats Vino on Olympic Gold’.

  • Nick

    I agree with this. Let’s face it, he’s been villified because he’s from a former Soviet territory – what would we be saying if Cav had come off Millar’s wheel in the home straight of The Mall and took gold?

  • georgel

    I agree

    I have never seen someone ride a bike so fast in 2007 when he and Kloden crashed!!!

    Rabobank went on the front and started riding hard , the chase that followed was incredible Vino road past other riders like they were stood still and he dropped all his team mates who were trying to drag him back up to the pelaton.

    I always admired his style of riding do or die, but after he was caught I can’t stand him, he has never admitted it . I shame he won the London Olympic road race.

  • adam

    Yep – I’d have felt equally as cheated if Basso had of won. And I was against Millar riding too. The difference between the ex-dopers is their attitude. The bull***t approach of ignoring that they ever did anything wrong, which is like kicking the fans in the balls. Repeatedly. Again and again over the years whilst we bought magazines, attended races, wore replica kits. Why the hell should we just forget about that? I feel no problem at all with being disappointed that Vino won.

    Millar may be the repentant doper and set the standard for apologising and blazing the way forward for clean teams and anti-doping education, but let’s not forget the way he treated YOU journalists. His black list of people who he wouldn’t talk too WHEN HE WAS DOPING because they were suggesting that… oh, yes, he might be doping. No, I won’t forget that either.

    So yes, there are a number of riders who I am not pleased to see win. If they have a problem with the bad press and the fans attitudes towards them then they should’ve thought about that before lying to us for years in the first place.

  • Steven Ostrofsky

    Don’t always agree with your commentary positions, but this time I do. Like him or not (and he’s certainly not one of my favorites), he’s in the same position as Millar and Basso, and should be accorded the same considerations. To me, his post ban results indicate a return to what he always was: a very good (not great), “punchy” one day rider, capable of a good result on any given day. The frenzy for Cav WAS always misguided, since he’s the type of rider that needs to be taken to (or close to) the line, and with five men teams on a tough course, the others knew what had to be done to deny him. They executed that strategy, and the GB team couldn’t prevent it.

  • Sandy

    I wonder what the young Rigoberto Uran is going to spend his “hard earned” cash on?