The International Cycling Union (UCI) is ready to fight a possible return to competition by Alexander Vinokourov, after reports that the Kazakh rider is back in training and intends to ride at the Beijing Olympics. Vinokourov tested positive for a blood transfusion during last year's Tour de France, but was handed a relatively lenient one-year suspension by the Kazakh Cycling Federation.
Since the suspension was back-dated to the day of his failed test, the former Astana rider would be eligible to race again by mid July.
When the Kazakh cycling federation handed down its decision in December 2007, the UCI had initially planned an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but subsequently withdrew after Vinokourov announced his retirement from professional cycling. However, on May 31 Vinokourov participated in - and won - the Laurentine Kivilev, a 100km race held on the French Riviera as a tribute to his compatriot Andrei Kivilev, who died at the 2003 Paris-Nice. Vinokourov revealed at the event that he was training three times per week, but denied a comeback was on the cards.
"We have had indirect reports that Vinokourov is training again," said UCI legal adviser Philippe Verbiest to AFP. "Should it appear that Vinokourov really is training for a comeback we will start up the appeal procedure again."
According to the Belga news agency, the Kazakh Cycling Federation has made little secret of its desire to see the 34-year-old participate in the Beijing Olympics.