FRANKFURT, Germany -- A top company ended its sponsorship of
professional cycling because doping scandals have put the sport in
Deutsche Telekom AG, recently known as T-Mobile and considered
one of the top teams on the ProTour, has sponsored a team since
"We arrived at this decision to separate our brand from further
exposure from doping in sport and cycling specifically," Deutsche
Telekom said Tuesday in a statement.
Former T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz, fired recently after
testing positive before the Tour de France, testified that doping
was widespread at the team, both before and after Jan Ullrich was
its main star.
Ullrich won the Tour de France in 1997. He retired after being
linked to the Spanish doping scandal but has denied wrongdoing.
Other former Telekom riders have admitted taking
performance-enhancing drugs, including 1996 Tour de France champion
Three months ago, Deutsche Telekom agreed to honor its
sponsorship contract until 2010 but reserved the right to
terminate it at any time in case of any more doping scandals.
Its decision to pull out was the latest and most serious blow to
the sport in Germany, where support for cycling has eroded after
the series of doping scandals.
Gerolsteiner will pull the plug on its team at the end of 2008
and adidas earlier this month dropped its support of T-Mobile.
"This was a difficult decision given our long history of
support for professional cycling and the efforts of Bob Stapleton
in managing the team in 2007," said Hamid Akhavan, a Telekom board
member and chief executive officer of T-Mobile International.
"We have an obligation to our employees, customers and
shareholders to focus our attention and resources on our core
businesses," Akhavan added. "We have worked very hard with the
current team management to promote a clean cycling sport but we
reached the decision to continue our efforts to rid all sports of
doping by applying our resources in other directions."
Akhavan said the company's decision was not based on any
disagreement with team management.
Stapleton said he hoped the team would continue to compete
despite the loss of sponsorship.
"We hope to go forward independently with the team to achieve
our goals of continued competitive success and being a leader in
anti-doping efforts in professional cycling," Stapleton said.
Sinkewitz tested positive for elevated testosterone levels
during training June 8, a month before the 2007 Tour de France
started. He testified before German cycling authorities in a bid to receive a lenient sentence and was banned for one year, instead of
the usual two-year term. He was also fined.
"It's not a surprise," Sinkewitz said after the Telekom
announcement. "It's a pity that some things went wrong in the
past. A completely new start was made recently and some things had changed. Too bad that the sponsor is quitting now."