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The much-rumoured parting of the ways between T-Mobile and their team manager, Olaf Ludwig, was confirmed this weekend as the World Cup circus pitched up on German soil at Hamburg. In a statement, T-Mobile said the decision was made because of a "loss of confidence in the management of the team as well as important differences of opinion concerning the future direction of the team and the problems of doping".
With clear reference to the impact of the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation in which recently sacked T-Mobile riders Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla and directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage are all implicated, the statement said the team will be terminating its contract with Ludwig's OLC company one year ahead of schedule. "After long discussions before and after the Tour de France, we have decided to terminate our contract with OLC from October 31 this year," it stated.
Ludwig's case does not seem to have been helped by comments suggesting Ullrich could still resurrect his career, as well as the reinstatement of Pevenage to the team following his previous release by former team boss Walter Godefroot.
Ludwig has been replaced by the manager of T-Mobile's women's team, Bob Stapleton, 48, while former pro Rolf Aldag is set to take Pevenage's place as directeur sportif. "Bob Stapleton has the full backing and confidence of the T-Mobile management: he knows the team well and he will be able to quickly bring about the significant changes that are necessary," said the statement.
"The full details of the announced new set-up will be communicated by the end of August at the latest," explained T-Mobile PR Christian Frommert.
A strong message was sent out by T-Mobile chief executive Ren Obermann. "After 15 years of involvement in cycling, we have a high level of responsibility towards the sport. For this reason the company has decided to proceed with its planned cycling engagement. T-Mobile believes that sport should be kept clean, and will actively play a role in helping restore cycling's credibility," he said.
It was a busy news weekend in Germany, with the national federation announcing a plan to reinforce testing for doping and stiffen penalties against offending riders. After a three-hour meeting with German professional teams, sponsors and race organisers, federation president Rudolf Scharping said: "Our goal is clear. We want to get rid of all those involved in doping. We have had very intense discussions and we have all reached the same conclusions."
"The federation will refuse to select cyclists for big championships if they have not submitted all the required information," Scharping continued. "The framework for the fight against doping isn't the most important thing. What is important is that it is effective."
International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid has also added to the ongoing debate by saying he would be in favour of the police and hidden cameras being used as preventative measures against doping. "We will watch everything - the competitions, training, the calendar, the teams and the teams' management," McQuaid told the BBC. "If we can do this we will regain some credibility."
With regard to cooperation with police forces, McQuaid said: "Authorities like the police can go much further than sporting bodies in these types of investigations. They can set up hidden cameras and they can bring down doping networks. It's sad this is the way it has to be."
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