Swiss racing bike manufacturer BMC is considering its future with Astana after team leader Alexandre Vinokourov's positive dope test for blood doping during this year's Tour de France, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Andy Rihs, BMC's owner, said he was "amazed and alarmed" at hearing of Vinokourov's positive test which came after his stage win on Saturday.
"We do not want anything to do with doping," added BMC sponsorship coordinator, Andreas Georgiadis. BMC posted this statement on its website Wednesday:
"BMC is closely monitoring the developments in the ASTANA case and in general in professional road racing. At the same time BMC is maintaining all other sponsorship activities. The economic effects on the business development are expected to be minor due to the strength of the BMC product range.
It was with dismay and disappointment that the BMC staff heard through the press that Alexander Vinokourov had tested positive for blood doping after last Saturday's victory in the Tour de France time trial stage. As a consequence ASTANA has withdrawn from the Tour and Vinokourov has been suspended. Due to the dominant role held by Vinokourov in the Swiss/Kazakh team, its future existence is uncertain.
BMC is carefully monitoring the developments concerning both ASTANA and the road racing scene. At the same time BMC is adamant about maintaining its other sponsorships in road racing, mountain biking and triathlon. BMC is not about to abandon the relationships that have been built up over the years based on trust, with the numerous teams and individual athletes who strive to achieve their potential with fair means day after day. Our ambition in sports sponsorship is to give the BMC athletes the best equipment to achieve their success. Additionally the constant dialogue with the athletes gives us valuable feedback for the developmentof innovative product concepts and helps us to continually optimise our existing models.
BMC's experience from recent events shows that doping is not directly connected with cycle products. The product range speaks for itself. BMC has experienced rapid development since 2001, with double figure growth since 2004."
Rihs, the Swiss business man who bought BMC in 2000, is also the majority shareholder of the Phonak group, who sponsored the Phonak cycling team from 2002 to 2006 before Rihs disbanded the team following the revelation that team leader and 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis had tested positive for high levels of testosterone. Landis has yet to hear the results of his arbitration hearing in May; he will be racing the Leadville 100 August 11 against former US Postal teammate and seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.
Kloden frustrated by Astana's Tour withdrawl
German rider Andreas Kloden, one of the favourites for this year's Tour de France, admitted on Wednesday he was bitterly disappointed after his Astana team agreed to withdraw from the race.
The Swiss-based team withdrew on Tuesday after team leader, Alexandre Vinokourov, failed a drugs test for blood doping.
"I am very disappointed because of the situation which I am in," said Kloden on his website.The 32-year-old, who finished second in the 2004 Tour and was third in 2006, spent eight years at T-Mobile before racing for Astana this season.
"I am at home having to follow the end of the Tour de France on television and to be honest, I do not understand anything anymore," he said. "My team asked me not to express myself publicly until the result of Vinokourov's B sample is known and I of course will respect this decision.
"All the hard work put in this season and all the preparation counts for nothing," added the German, who was fifth overall at the end of the 15th stage before the withdrawal of Astana after it was revealed on Tuesday that Vinokourov had failed a test.
An 'A' sample taken from the Kazakh rider after his victory in the race's time trial on the 13th stage revealed the presence of "two distinct blood populations".
© BikeRadar/AFP 2007