T-Mobile deny financing under threat

Stapleton optimistic about future, despite recent confessions

T-Mobile team boss Bob Stapleton said Tuesday he believes the German telecommunications giant will continue sponsoring their cycling team despite the fallout from Patrik Sinkewitz's doping confessions.

"The latest confession is not a reason to call into question the future of this team, which has so many young riders and so much potential," said Stapleton. "Of course, we paid close attention to the information about the doping procedures which took place in the team until 2006, but that hasn't led to talks with T-Mobile about breaking the partnership."

Sinkewitz was sacked by T-Mobile in July during this year's Tour de France after he was discovered to have had abnormal levels of testosterone in his blood during a pre-race drugs test.

The 27-year-old appeared in front of a German Cycling Federation (BDR) disciplinary committee two weeks ago and gave five hours of evidence in a bid to have his expected two-year ban reduced. But his revelations, having confessed to using blood doping and being administered the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) by two former team doctors up until 2006, have done nothing for the relationship between T-Mobile and their sponsors.

Deutsche Telekom have sponsored the German cycling team since 1990, initially as Team Telekom until the name was changed to T-Mobile in 2004. The company spends more than €10m a year on the team, an investment first tarnished when 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich was sacked in 2006 for his alleged implication in a major Spanish doping scandal. The relationship between the cycling team and their sponsor was damaged further when several former riders confessed to taking EPO earlier this year. Then Ukrainian Serguei Gonchar was sacked in June for an abnormal blood test.

Sinkewitz's July dismissal followed Deutsche Telekom's threat to end their sponsorship of the team in the event of more doping confessions.

Click here for Procycling's Features editor Daniel Friebe's take on this.Have some thoughts you'd like to share? Join BikeRadar's Forum and see what others think.

© AFP 2007

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