Deutsche Telekom AG ends cycling sponsorship due to doping

Updated: November 27, 2007, 1:52 PM ET
Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany -- A top company ended its sponsorship of professional cycling because doping scandals have put the sport in peril.

Deutsche Telekom AG, recently known as T-Mobile and considered one of the top teams on the ProTour, has sponsored a team since 1991.

"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 Bjarne Riis.

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."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press