Barloworld quit cycling in wake of Duenas affair

Zero-tolerance doping policy put into force

Kenyan-born Briton Chris Froome hit out at Barloworld teammate Moises Duenas in Digne-les-Bains on Saturday after the Spaniard's positive doping control at the Tour de France.

Duenas' positive test for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) on stage four has been one of three on the race, but is the first to force a drastic decision on the part of a team sponsor.

On Saturday Barloworld, which made its debut on the Tour last year when Robbie Hunter won his first stage and Colombian Mauricio Soler won the 'King of the Mountains' jersey, said it was quitting the sport.

"Team Barloworld has a zero tolerance policy towards doping which has been constantly communicated to the riders - we have to act on this policy and as such we will all have to live with the long term consequences of one individual's action," said a team statement.

Some took the news with a pinch of salt at the end of Saturday's 194km stage between Nimes and Dignes les Bains which saw Spaniard Oscar Freire claim the stage from a bunch sprint.

South African sprinter Hunter, for one, seemed unconcerned.

He compared it to the scenario at T-Mobile, who ended their sponsorship of Germany's number one team in the wake of several doping affairs, and a string of allegations surrounding former Tour winner Jan Ullrich.

T-Mobile evolved into High Road, albeit with new management and a strict anti-doping policy, and since then manager Bob Stapleton has renamed it Columbia after managing to bring the American sportswear company on board.

"There's no reason to react, it's the same situation as High Road," said Hunter. "The team has no name but the budget is there and the contracts are signed."

Froome, one of the four riders Barloworld still have left in the race - having started with nine - was equally confident, claiming that the current crisis can only lead to "a win-win situation".

"It's going to end up being a team that continues the same way as it has, with the same riders and perhaps a different name. I know that for 2009 the sponsorship is still confirmed," he told AFP.

However Froome had harsher words for Duenas, a rider he originally believed was "a nice guy".

"I don't know if he fully understood the consequences of what he was doing," added Froome, who recently acquired British nationality having spend much of his adolescence in South Africa. "But it was a very selfish act on his part, selfish enough to take away almost 45 people's jobs."

Froome says that he has felt differently about the team's image since the Duenas affair erupted last week.

"We're all Barloworld, and people put you all in the same boat. If I say to someone I'm riding for Barloworld the first thing they might think about is doping," he added. "It makes me very angry - but what can you do about it?

"Moises got on well with everyone on the team. I really liked him and thought he was a decent guy, so to me it was a huge shock. I find it incredible that he's managed to hide it from all of us like that. But what I find more amazing is how he thought he could come to the Tour de France and get away with it. You're going to be tested, so what's the deal?"

Duenas is the second Spaniard to be pulled from the race following Liquigas's decision to suspend Manuel Beltrán after his positive test for EPO.

Double stage winner Riccardo Ricco of Italy also tested positive for EPO, prompting his team, Saunier Duval - who withdrew from the race - to place a question mark over their future involvement in the sport.

© AFP 2008

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