Alexandre Vinokourov made his return to professional cycling on Tuesday at the Castillon-la-Bataille race in France. It’s the Kazakh rider’s first race back since serving a two-year ban for blood doping.

Vinokourov turned up at the 28-mile criterium with a jersey featuring a photograph of himself in Astana kit, and with the legend ‘Vino 4 Ever’ emblazoned across it. The 35 year old made his message clear: I’m back, and I’m here to stay.

Vinkourov says he still intends to re-join Astana, the Kazakh-backed team that he helped create and the home of 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. However, current team manager Johan Bruyneel was quoted in April 2008 as saying that he would ‘prefer to die before signing Alexandre Vinokourov’.

Things change. With Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong now signalling their intention to leave the team and create the RadioShack squad, the way may be clear for Vinkourov to once again race in Astana colours, in a role supporting team leader Contador.

“The aim is to build a team around him [Contador],” Vinokourov told French sports paper L’Equipe. “I am ready to work for him, but obviously the decision belongs to him [whether to stay with Astana].”

Vinkourov failed a test during the 2007 Tour de France for homologous banned blood transfusion. The Kazakhstan cycling federation imposed a one-year ban which was subsequently extended to two years after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport made by the Union Cycliste Internationale. The ban expired on July 24, 2009.

Vinokourov will next race in the Tour de l’Ain (August 9-12).

  • Sukhoi

    I was stunned to follow so many Bikers have been busted since 2005-06 years. It is really unacceptable. Let’s not single out only Vino because there are many great Bikers in that infamous league. That Spanish Operation was too hot to handle. I don’t know how much ban length should be enough, maybe 4-6 year ban is as good as life ban for the riders. Having said that, media and few rabid anti doping agencies like that French one (LLPD or something) should not hound the Bikers every time under suspicion, Lance Armstrong is a classic victim of this type of erratic behavior. He always challenged authorities by saying “Go ahead, you won’t find anything inside me!”. So, I do propose along with the dopers, such erring media and anti doping officials must be punished too because there must be a fair treatment for all the wrong doers :)

  • Brian Gale

    Agree with the previous comments, cheats like Vino should not be allowed back in just 2 years. A minimum ban of 4 years should be imposed on drug cheaters!!

  • Felix Oliver-Tasker

    In my opinion Vinokourov should never be allowed to race professionally again. It is an insult to every clean rider in cycling and to every follower of the sport. Until cycling’s governing body grasps the nettle and introduces lifetime bans against riders who use performance enhancing methods to gain a competitive edge then this farce will continue.

    Felix Oliver-Tasker

  • George Lazenby

    Get lost and find something else to do Vino.

  • SJS

    quote “You cannot be serious!”

  • keith bridge

    shud have been given a lifeban. will probably re offend

  • david fearon

    Please get rid of that anoying Garmin pop up as it is driving me mad and makes it very difficult to read anything on your web site!!!!!!