Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov maintained his innocence Wednesday, one day after testing positive for a banned blood transfusion at the Tour de France.
Vinokourov insists he did not cheat, claiming his Astana team is being persecuted.
"It's a mistake. I never doped, that's not the way I see my profession," Vinokourov told Wednesday's edition of daily sports newspaper L'Equipe. "I think it's a mistake in part due to my crash.
"I have spoken to the team doctors who had a hypothesis that there was an enormous amount of blood in my thighs, which could have led to my positive test."
The positive test occurred after Vinokourov's victory in the 13th-stage time trial on Saturday. He also won Stage 15, a tough climb in the Pyrenees.
A second rider,Cristian Moreni of Italy,failed a test for testosterone and was led away by police after the completion of Wednesday's 16th stage.
Vinokourov, meanwhile, claims to be the victim of a "provocation.
"It's been going on for months and today they're managing to demolish me," he said. "The setting up of our team made a lot of people jealous and now we're paying the price. It's a shame to leave the Tour this way, but I don't want to waste time in proving my innocence."
Even though his career is facing ruin, Vinokourov managed to joke about his situation.
"I heard that I made a transfusion with my father's blood," Vinokourov said. "That's absurd, I can tell you that with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka."
British rider David Millar, who has admitted to a doping past, said he felt saddened by the news. Learning of it during a news conference Tuesday, Millar was close to tears.
"I'm so shocked … 'Vino' was one of my heroes," Millar said. "I don't know what to think. I get the impression that the riders will never understand. For me, it's horrible, but for the young riders coming up, it's worse."