Vino retires

"I don't want this sport anymore"

Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov, suspended for doping by his federation, announced on Friday his retirement from the sport.

The 34-year-old and his Astana team were kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France after he tested positive for blood doping. He was sacked by his Kazakh-based, Swiss-registered team following the positive test, which consequently led to the prompt withdrawal of the whole team from the Tour.

"I am stopping competition ... It's a definitive decision," he told a news conference. "I don't want this sport any more ... I'm slamming the door and I'm leaving.

"It's sad that my career is ending like this but I want to restore my honour ... I will prove that I'm not guilty and get the results of this test rescinded."

The Kazakh cycling federation had Thursday banned Vinokourov for one year, paving the way for him to compete at the Beijing Olympics as his suspension runs up to July 2008, the month before the games start.

Cycling's governing body the UCI had expressed its surprise and astonishment at the federation's decision to ban him for only one year.

Vinokourov, who said that he would be consulting his lawyers regarding an appeal of his suspension, blamed anti-Kazakh bias for his problems.

"When we built the Astana team people started to talk behind our backs asking where are these Kazakhs coming from? They told us they didn't want us in Europe," said the 2006 Tour de Spain winner.

And he claimed that doping was not more rife in cycling than other more high-profile sports which were protected from scandals by their financial clout.

"I don't think cycling is dirtier than any other sport. We're 150 people, where are the others? Where is tennis, where is football? They've been told not to touch them," said Vinokourov. "I've the impression that cycling is an orchestra with very good musicians but a bad conductor. That's the reason the sport is a mess."

©  AFP 2007

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