Let’s all calm down for a second and take a look at what we know, and what we’re told, and why.
We know that the winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege receives 20,000Euro, and the runner-up receives 10,000Euro.
A Swiss magazine claims to have emails between Alexander Vinokourov and Alexandr Kolobnev. Here is their article - based on “emails that [the magazine has] procured,” the magazine claims that Vino bought the race from Kolobnev for $100,000. What do we know about the reputation of this magazine, L’Illustre? I don’t know anything, except that it seems that they are willing to either hack or lie to sell magazines. Based on the emails, it seems that Kolonev admits to allowing Vino to win, and that bank information was exchanged.
This is suspicious. However, whether this is proof that the race was bought and sold really depends on the veracity of the emails that L’Illustre has. You’ll forgive me for having a hard time trusting the reputation of a magazine willing to be known to “procure” private emails, presumably without consent. Tut-tuts on Twitter about cheating conveniently ignore this.
I can’t help but wonder if the righteous moral outrage that’s followed this story is due to the fact that it’s Vino, a polarizing figure who was popped for blatant doping, served his ban, and came back to top levels of competition. I think that those who love to hate him, this news is simply convenient fuel for the same “populist angst among cycling fans” that makes us “all feel really self-righteous,” as Cosmo of Cyclocosm initially said of Vino’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory in How The Race Was Won.
Why? Well, when Joe Parkin’s A Dog in a Hat came out, stories about the purchasing of races seemed to me to be treated by fans as a unique and salty facet of a gritty, dynamic sport. Should there have been outrage? No. Inner Ring elaborates: collusion among opponents is the essence of bike racing. Your enemy today is your ally tomorrow.
Based on the alleged emails, it certainly appears that Kolobnev may have let Vinokourov win. Paying to win is objectionable, but save your outrage for facts you can rely on. And if you can’t do that, at least save your outrage for the guy who may have sat up, not the guy who rode hard all the way to the finish line.
What do you think? Share your comments below.