T-Mobile reconsidering sponsorship

Patrik Sinkewitz's confession to Der Spiegel changed things, Deutsche Telekom says.

A significant chapter in the history of cycling could come to a dramatic end this week after the latest doping revelations to hit the sport. Disgraced former T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz's published confession has Deutsche Telekom rethinking its sponsorship of Bob Stapleton's T-Mobile Cycling team.

Confessions recounting his use of blood doping and the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) have left Sinkewitz's promising career in tatters.

However his admissions, which follow a testing year for the team which until recently was committed to the Tour de France hopes of Jan Ullrich, may now spell the end for the hugely successful black and magenta clad outfit.

Despite their contract running for another three years, German telecommunications giants Deutsche Telekom are meeting this week to discuss the possibility of ending their sponsorship of T-Mobile. T-Mobile's cycling activities are sponsored to the tune of ten million euros a year. But despite implementing a wide range of measures, including forcing a battery of internal doping tests on their riders, that money could be channeled elsewhere.

Stefan Althoff, who is chief of the company's sponsorship portfolio, said their contract runs until 2010 but admitted that Sinkewitz's confessions has forced a rethink.

Althoff told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "We could go on as if nothing has happened. (But) new information has come to light, and we can't ignore it. Theoretically, we could end our (sponsorship) contract, the question is more to do with under what conditions we do it."

Sinkewitz was forced to leave this year's Tour de France through injury, but it later emerged he had tested positive for testosterone from a test taken in June, before the Tour.

After his sacking by the team he finally told officials from the German cycling federation (BDR) last week that he had used blood transfusions and EPO since 2003.

"It was no secret then that EPO made you faster," said Sinkewitz.

He claimed the practice continued at T-Mobile until 2006 and was administered by team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, who were sacked in May after admitting giving cyclists EPO.

"In November 2005, at the time of our first meeting, I definitely spoke to them about blood doping and they said to me that it was possible," said Sinkewitz. "They did not give out EPO readily and only did it so our riders wouldn't go to any other doctors."

Sinkewitz says all doping operations in T-Mobile stopped after the 2006 Tour de France when 1997 winner Jan Ullrich was linked to a major doping scandal in Spain and the team was completely reorganised.

However news of his test - which followed confessions of drug use earlier this season from former T-Mobile riders Erik Zabel and Bjarne Riis - sparked a backlash in Germany, with television stations halting transmission of the Tour de France and Deutsche Telekom threatening to withdraw sponsorship.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2007

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