Cyclist Vinokourov retiring after receiving one-year ban

Kazakh rider Alexander Vinokourov,
who tested positive for blood doping at this year's Tour de
France, announced his retirement on Friday.

"I've decided to end my professional career in cycling," the
34-year-old told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home
in Almaty.

"I no longer have the motivation for competing but I have
one more thing to do before I leave the sport for good, I want
to clear my name."

Vinokourov was given a one-year ban by the Kazakh Cycling
Federation on Thursday after testing positive for a homologous
blood transfusion after winning a Tour time trial in Albi.

"I've been accused of something I've never done. I'm
innocent and I want to prove it," he said.

"That's why I'm appealing the doping ban. On Monday I'm
flying out to Europe where I will meet my lawyers to discuss
this case.

"But I can tell you right now I'll be appealing it to CAS,"
he said, referring to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration
for Sport.

Vinokourov, one of the pre-race favorites, was kicked out
of the Tour following the positive result. His Astana team was
also forced out of the race.

The Kazakh, who was subsequently fired by the Swiss-based
team, blamed the French laboratory that analyzed his samples for
the positive test.

"The lab analysis were flawed, there was no accuracy in
their tests," he said.

Vinokourov, who turned professional in 1998 with the Casino
team and has 46 career victories including the 2006 Tour of
Spain, said he had dreamt of a different ending.

"Since I started my professional career my aim was to go out
on top as a champion, not like this, as a drugs cheat," he said.

"I wanted to end my career after winning this year's Tour,"
added Vinokourov, who finished third in the 2003 Tour and won
the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Vinokourov, who would be eligible to race again after his
suspension ends in July 2008, ruled out a return.

"I'm not coming back even if I win the appeal. In my case a
one-year ban instead of two years makes no difference," he said.

"It's like being sent to jail for a year while they
investigate your case. It just doesn't work out for me, that's
why I'm going to fight this injustice."