General VIno, your troops are in trouble.
After a whopping and unprecedented five doping cases in the Astana WorldTour and Continental team, head man Alexander Vinokourov has been doing serious damage control. It’s pretty much a 24 hour a day job at this point.
What’s interesting is his attempt to distance his WorldTour squad, home of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, and the Continental team. He’s trying to separate the two with some kind of weird logic that basically says junior team with three dopers evil, big brother team with two dopers, okay.
He’s been quick to say there is no relationship between the two even though its already documented that Dmitri Sedoun is the team manager of the Astana Continental team and also a directeur sportif of the WorldTour team. Far more symbolic, Vino himself is a major link between the two teams as he demonstrated by suspending the Conti team. If he has the power to do that, he clearly has a major management and over-sight role there.
Still, Vino is attempting to throw the Conti squad under the bus to take the spotlight off his WorldTour team. He’s making a distinction between the “young riders” who are “crazy” and his big boys with their two doping cases who, apparently, are less crazy.
In what is starting to look like an old school Kremlin purge, Kairat Kelimbetov, the president of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation, has resigned. That’s the good news. Potential bad news? He’s replaced with Darkan Mangeldiev, one of Vino’s pals.
The sad irony of it all is that most people expect that Astana’s WorldTour license will be renewed next week. We assume that the only reason that’s true is that the UCI doesn’t want to complicate the life of one of its biggest stars, Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali.
Five doping cases in three months isn’t just an indictment of the entire Astana organization but the worst PR nightmare for a sport with a fragile and shaky financial model that’s still trying to convince sponsors that the dark doping years are over.
Apparently, that’s not the case at Astana where life looks a lot like 1990. Nevertheless, Vino sticks to his script hoping that if he just keeps repeating the same lines, he’ll somehow fool everyone. It’s a variation on Hitler’s big lie — nobody believes you when you tell a small lie, but if you tell a huge lie, people are more apt to give it credence.
“There is no problem for the license. We’ve given all the explanations that the were asked for,” Vino told Gazzetta dello Sport. All the explanations? No, he’s got a long way to go.