The Hague, Oct 19 (IANS) The Dutch banking group Rabobank Friday announced it was ending from Dec 31 its sponsorship of both the men's and the women's professional cycling teams. This follows the report of the American anti-doping body USADA last week about organised doping activities of now-disqualified seven times Tour winner Lance Armstrong.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) last week released a 1,000-page report on the structural use of doping in the former US Postal/Discovery cycling team, masterminded by Armstrong.
According to the report, American rider Levi Leipheimer also confessed to having used doping for years, not only as teammate of Armstrong, but also between 2002 and 2004, when he was employed by the Dutch Rabobank team, reports Xinhua.
Along with the USADA case that suggested doping within the team, the International Cycling Union (UCI) Thursday opened a biological passport case against Spanish Rabobank rider Carlos Barredo.
"It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision," Bert Bruggink, member of the Rabobank managing board, said in a statement.
"We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future."
"Cycling is a beautiful sport, which millions of Dutch people enjoy and a large number of those Dutch people are clients of Rabobank," Bruggink added. "But our decision stands: We are pulling out of professional cycling. It is painful. Not just for Rabobank, but especially for the enthusiasts and the cyclists who are not to blame in this."
Rabobank started its involvement in cycling 17 years ago and expanded the cycling sponsorship during the course of the years to a complete package, from the men's and women's professional teams to the youth team and the cyclocross. It will continue its ties with amateur cycling as a sponsor, including the youth training and the cyclocross team.
Some famous ex-riders of the pro team were Michael Boogerd (1996-2007), Erik Breukink (1996-1997), Erik Dekker (1996-2006), Oscar Freire (2003-2011), Robbie McEwen (1996-1999), Denis Menchov (2005-2010), Michael Rasmussen (2003-2007) and Luis Leon Sanchez (current).
In the 2007 Tour de France, while in the yellow jersey, Rasmussen had his contract terminated by his team and was removed from the Tour. He served a two-year ban from July 2007 to July 2009, for lying about his whereabouts.
The professional cycling team declared it regretted the decision by the sponsor. "We've been cycling for 17 years now with the name Rabobank proudly on our shirts and it hurts that going forward we'll have to do without that name," the team declared in a statement.