Nibali Defends Link With Doping Cheat

Vincenzo Nibali has defended his association with former doper Alexandre Vinokourov, who was found guilty of blood doping on the 2007 Tour de France.

Vincenzo Nibali

Vinokourov, a former professional road bicycle racer from Kazakhstan, won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics Men's Road Race. Vinokourov also won four stage wins in the Tour de France and four in the Vuelta a España besides two bronze medals at the World Championships and one Amstel Gold Race.

Nibali, the Italian professional road bicycle racer who rides for the Kazakhstani UCI ProTeam Astana, said things are not the same as were in the past. Nibal said he believes things have changed for the better as works with sports director Giuseppe Martinelli. The cyclist said it is thanks to Martinelli that he joined Astana. Since 2007, the Kazakh-funded team Astana has a tainted reputation. In its first year as a professional cycling team, Vinokourov was kicked out of the Tour following his doping offence and Alberto Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned anabolic agent during Tour de France 2010.

Nibali believes the peloton should look forward after the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The Italian rider said mistakes were committed by a lot of riders and we need to leave these mistakes in the past and give their chance to the young riders. Nibali, who won two editions of the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, said he came to Astana to be part of a group that could take him to the top in the Giro, in the Vuelta and in the Tour. He added there will always be idiots and he would not speak for the whole peloton but something has been done to clean up this sport.

Nibali also said his comfortable lead of the Tour de France is devalued by the absence of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. Both Froome and Contador were forced to abandon the Tour following heavy crashes. Nibali said he came here with good form and the intention to fight till the end and added he noticed that riders who were ahead of me at the Dauphine are behind at the Tour. He further added last year he won the Giro, he came second at the Vuelta, and he beat Froome and Contador at almost all the races he did with them.

In another development, Nibali has denied he trained with Michele Ferrari in 2009. The 29-year-old Italian said he has never met Ferrari personally. Italian newspaper La Repubblica ran a story after the 2009 Tour de France in which it alleged that Nibali and Liquigas teammate Franco Pellizotti trained under the guidance of Ferrari in Livigno, Italy, and St. Moritz, Switzerland. In the article, Italian sports director Ivano Fanini said there was proof that Nibali and Pellizotti trained wearing black, non-team clothing and Ferrari followed on a scooter. In 2011, the newspaper dropped the case and Fanini paid around €4000 ($5,400) to a charity as a fine.

Nibali rode away from the allegations without hiccups and the team and its other riders were linked to Ferrari or doping. Franco Pellizotti served a two-year doping ban and was stripped of his mountains-classification title from the 2009 Tour for abnormal biological passport values.

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