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Commenting after international sanctions against Russia have seen the value of the rouble plummet and made things difficult for his Tinkoff banks, Oleg Tinkov has said that there is a possibility that the pressure put on the country could have a knock-on effect and cause his cycling team to stop.
“If the sanctions will deteriorate the Russian economy and share prices decline even more – there is no room to decline, but let’s assume there is – and then the Tinkoff bank starts to suffer, then I will stop my sponsorship,” he said in a video interview with Bloomberg.
If that happens he expressed pessimism about his chances of getting alternative backing.
“I don’t know as owner of the team if I will be able to find a substitution sponsor in Europe,” he continued. “Most likely I will not, and I will have to shut down to the team.
“So you see there is a direct impact. And I have 80 employees getting high salaries now, from Denmark to Spain – I have 14 nationalities, 80 people getting high salaries right now because of me and because of the Tinkoff bank in Russian.
“If you push us [Russians], eventually 80 people in Europe will lost their job because of the sanction. These days, I don’t know what they are doing…we are all connected now.”
The international community has imposed tough measures against Russia due to what it says is that country’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. The Russian rouble has plummeted as a result, and Tinkov’s banks have been badly hit.
His Tinkoff Saxo team includes former Tour de France winner and current Vuelta a España champion Alberto Contador, three time Maillot Vert Peter Sagan and others.
Tinkov faulted the US, saying that it is telling Europe what to do. His criticism extended to the American government, but he also found fault with the president of his own country.
“If I were the Americans, I would be more concerned about China than Russia, but they are trying to push Russia. It is their choice.
“I am so much in love with Obama in his administration, in terms of internal policy…this is genius. GDP is growing, they have recovered from the credit cycle, and so on and so forth. Brilliant. But what they do externally is a total disaster.
“Vice versa for the Russian administration. It is so good for external policy, it is great what Putin is doing, but he is disastrous for the internal politics.”
Tinkov was also asked about Alberto Contador, who appeared to return to his best form in 2014, and how successful he believed that he could become.
He suggested that he might be able to achieve something in 2015 that has never been done before. “I think he is able to win all of the three Grand Tours next year,” he claimed.
Contador has already committed to doing the Giro/Tour double; Tinkov’s answer suggests that if the rider can win both of those, that he may well ride and try to win the Vuelta too.
Asked if he was convinced that Contador could achieve such a feat clean, the Russian gave a general answer rather than a specific one.
“I will tell you something. There are a lot of rumours about doping, but I owned a team for three years before [Tinkov Credit Systems – ed.] and I own the team for two years here…because I was the sponsor one year, now I own the team. So, five years. I never, ever had any doping cases in my team. None. Zero. Nil.”
Current Tinkoff Saxo rider Roman Kreuziger is fighting a bid by the UCI to overturn his previous clearing on allegations of bio passport violations. The governing body has taken a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The values in question relate to Kreuziger’s time with the Astana team. Another Tinkoff Saxo rider, Michael Rogers, was suspended for several months due to a Clenbuterol positive, but that was later ruled to have been a case of food contamination and he was cleared to return to racing.
In November 2012 former US pro Tyler Hamilton claimed that Tinkov told riders at a Tinkoff Credit Systems training camp in 2007 that he didn’t care what they did as long as they did not get caught. Tinkov has denied the claims, saying that Hamilton was not telling the truth.