|Rabobank to end sponsorship of professional cycling|
20 October 2012
The Hague: Rabobank will stop sponsoring professional cycling at the end of this year, in the wake of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report on the use of banned substances in the sport, the Dutch bank said on Friday.
“We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport,” bank board member Bert Bruggink was quoted as saying as he announced the end of its 17-year backing.
“We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future.”
Rabobank said that it came to the “inevitable” decision following the USADA report on Lance Armstrong which was published last week and put the seven-time Tour de France winner at the heart of the biggest doping programme in the history of sport.
“It is painful. Not just for Rabobank, but especially for the enthusiasts and the cyclists who are not to blame in this,” Bruggink said.
The bank, which said it would still sponsor amateur cycling, is to hold a press conference in Utrecht at 0830 GMT.
Rabobank’s sponsorship is the latest casualty of the the far-reaching Armstrong scandal, which the USADA called “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) governing body is studying the 202-page dossier and more than 1,000 pages of supporting testimony to see if it will accept the findings.
Among the 26 witnesses who testified against Armstrong were 11 of his former team-mates.
Rabobank on Thursday suspended Spanish cylist Carlos Barredo after it was announced he faced disciplinary action from the UCI for allegedly breaking blood-doping rules.
The UCI are targeting Barredo, who insists he is innocent of any doping offences, over apparent drug violations relating to the blood profile on his biological passport.
High-profile sponsors in the United States, including sportswear giant Nike, have dropped Armstrong from their marketing campaigns in the wake of the scandal, while the Texan has also stepped down as head of the cancer foundation that he set up.
Armstrong was on Friday evening due to make his first public appearance since the publication of the report, at a charity fundraiser for the Livestrong foundation in his home town of Austin, Texas.
The UCI is meanwhile facing growing calls to say how Armstrong and his US Postal Service team managed to avoid detection for so long, amid claims they were tipped off about drug test visits and positive results were covered up.
Casualties from the controversy that has rocked the sport include senior Cycling Australia official Stephen Hodge, who resigned from the board after admitting taking performance-enhancing drugs during his pro career.
His departure, announced on Friday, followed former Olympian and US Postal rider Matt White, who was sacked on Wednesday from the same organisation and as sports director for Orica-GreenEDGE, also after admitting doping during his career.
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