Major Cycling Sponsor Rabobank Leaving Pro Ranks Following Doping Reports
The professional cycling world is "reeling" following an announcement that "giant Dutch sponsors Rabobank are to withdraw from the sport as a direct consequence" of the USADA's Lance Armstrong report and its contents, according to Brendan Gallagher of the London TELEGRAPH. The Netherlands-based bankers have been "stalwart supporters of the sport since 1996 and over the years their team has effectively become the 'national team' of one of the world's great cycling nations." The bank's withdrawal "sends out a strong message to the UCI that even the most loyal and committed sponsors have their breaking point and will not tolerate indefinitely a sport that is beset by a doping culture." Rabobank will end its sponsorship of both the men's and the women's professional cycling teams "at the end of this year but will continue its ties with amateur cycling as a sponsor, including the youth training and the cyclocross team." Rabobank CFO Bert Bruggink said, "It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport." The Rabobank pro cycling team has "experienced a number of doping scandals in the past." Thomas Dekker was "banned for two years in 2009 after admitting doping in 2007" and in the USADA report, Levi Leipheimer "confesses to using EPO while with the team" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 10/19).
TIME TO RECONSIDER: REUTERS' Webb & Deutsch write in a nation "obsessed with both amateur and professional cycling, Rabobank is the biggest sponsor in Dutch professional cycling with total sponsorship" worth $19.64M a year. Another sponsor, SKINS, which is a partner of the Rabobank team, "said on Thursday it would reconsider its association with the sport if its UCI governing body failed to act on doping" (REUTERS, 10/19).
RIDERS REACT: In London, Sam Munnery reports Rabobank "immediately received criticism for walking away." Cyclist David Millar, "a reformed doper who served a two-year suspension after being caught in 2004, said the bank’s decision was 'sickening.'" Millar tweeted, "Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from your young clean guys who are part of the solution" (THETIMES.co.uk, 10/19).