Will Vino be aboard?
Astana, the team of reigning Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru, is in deep trouble. They are down to their last drink at the last chance saloon, to extend UCI president Cookson’s metaphor.
The governing body of the sport has recommend to the UCI License Committee that Astana’s WorldTour status be revoked. The team has a March 20th deadline for submitting their defense and shit is hitting fans from Kazakhstan to Aigle, Switzerland.
However, La Gazzetta dello Sport now speculates that there may be another escape route, another option for Astana to keep their place in the WorldTour. Alexandre Vinokourov must leave the planet.
According to at least one UCI official, they considered just insisting that Vinokourov leave the team and turning it over to new management. Now, however, a new scenario that involves shooting Vino out into deep space is being actively debated.
“At first, yes, we considered forcing him to step down,” said Stefano Zindris, a compliance expert at the UCI. “Then we thought, no, he must be exiled from Kazakstan but in that case he’s just living in Monaco and running the team in secret. That is not a positive solution. So we decided he must leave the planet entirely.”
It’s a deeply troubling situation for Vinokourov, himself sanctioned for blood doping years ago and now presiding over an Astana program with five doping positives in the last year. Should the License Committee revoke the WorldTour license then they will appeal to the Court for Arbitration in Sport. A loss in that tribunal may now carry far more significant penalties.
“We will ask CAS to impose a Planetary Expulsion for Mr. Vinokourov,” said Zindris. “It is legally applicable although it has never been used in any case so far. But we believe the severity of Astana’s infractions merit extreme action to bring credibility back to cycling. He must go and go very, very, very far away.”
While disgraced seven time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was given a lifetime ban, the possibility that Vinokourov might to shoot into space and exiled from Earth sends an even more dramatic message. Astana’s legal team have yet to issue a statement about this latest development but are working several back channels to save Vino from his fate.
“Vino is not happy, not happy at all,” said Astana press office Mikail Pludzozky. “He has no plans to leave the team or for that matter the planet. He is not going anywhere. It is preposterous. All our paperwork is in order and we have paid everyone who needs to be paid and we are therefore confused. Alexander does not even own a space suit.”
Despite the ill-defined legal precedent, the UCI is apparently moving ahead with plans for the exile from Earth. “We are talking with a private company that launches satellites,” said Zindris. “Ideally, we would get him up into space as soon as possible. He is a cancer. However, we are also speaking to NASA, the U.S. Space program about getting Vino on one of their space shuttles and dropping him out there somewhere.”
As always, Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali remains “tranquillo.” That sense of calm will be greatly tested should his boss Alexandre Vinokourov be kicked off the planet.