According to an article published in l'Équipe on Saturday, Alexandre Vinokourov may return to racing next season. Sporza, the Belgian television channel, is expected to air an interview with the Kazakh rider on Sunday, in which he will reportedly confirm his plans.
Vino, suspended for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France, announced his retirement last December. Though he would have been eligible to ride on 14 July of this year, he chose to retire instead. The Kazakh Federation had given Vinokourov a relatively short sanction, and many observers expected that the UCI would take the decision to TAS, rather than allow him to contest the Olympic Games in Beijing. According to l'Équipe, Bruyneel also played a role in discouraging Vinokourov's return, perhaps in an effort to protect Team Astana from potential controversy.
Now, Vinokourov has reportedly changed his plans. If all goes according to expectation, he will announce tomorrow his intention to ride again next season for Team Astana. But Vino has no interest in riding in Armstrong's support at the Tour de France. Instead, he would likely target the Giro d'Italia and the World Championships. L'Équipe speculates that Vinokourov's return to Team Astana could have a negative effect on the team's Tour de France chances. After all, the scandal surrounding Vinokourov's positive test at the 2007 Tour de France that in part resulted in the team's exclusion this year.
Update thingy: Not so fast. L'Équipe reports that Pat McQuaid of the UCI is very displeased by Vinokourov's plans. In a brief statement, McQuaid said that Vinokourov must first serve a 2 year suspension for doping before he can return to racing. The UCI had challenged the Kazakh Federation's decision to shorten Vinokourov's ban to one year. Explained McQuaid: "The UCI had opened a file before the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), that we only withdrew because he [Vinokourov] announced his retirement." The UCI would re-open the case, implied McQuaid, if Vinokourov sought to ride.
Honestly, this next season becomes stranger every day.