German telephone company T-Mobile, who sponsor the ProTour cycling team of the same name, will decide "in the next two weeks" whether it remains in the sport, announced parent company Deutsche Telekom's communications director Christian Frommert on Monday.
"The Tour de France finished on Sunday, we would like to evaluate the developments and take a decision according to the facts. Also we are going to talk to political and sporting leaders as well as the media too," Frommert explained in a press release posted on the team's website.
"We will take all the time that is needed, we owe that to everyone, but this decision should be made in the next two weeks," said Frommert. "Deutsche Telekom is aware of its responsibilities concerning cycling, which is shown by our commitment to clean cycling."
Founded in 1991 the team was initially called Telekom before being changed to T-Mobile in 2004.
T-Mobile has invested in the sport of professional cycling until 2010, but after team rider Patrik Sinkewitz failed a doping test for testosterone coupled with a string of doping scandals that hit the 2007 Tour de France it has prompted a re-think to their participation in the peloton.
"The Tour has maybe hit the bottom, if it is the case it presents the unique chance to start afresh and break off from the past, even though at the moment it is difficult to see what shape this revival will take and who will take it," said Frommert.
T-Mobile spends between 12 and 14 million euros per year on their cycling team. The German sponsors were left red-faced in the summer when top former team members Bjarne Riis, Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag all confessed to using banned blood-booster EPO (erythropoietin) while at Telekom in the 1990s.
Riis was subsequently stripped of his 1996 Tour de France title while another former Telekom rider Jan Ullrich - winner of the 1997 Tour - was sacked by T-Mobile for being implicated in the Puerto doping scandal in Spain
- though he protests his innocence.
Sinkewitz won't ask for B sample
Patrik Sinkewitz, who was among riders in this year's Tour de France to test positive for drugs, has decided not to have a second urine sample analysed, the German Cycling Federation said on Tuesday. The 26-year-old's decision means he accepts the test's result and has violated T-Mobile's Code of Conduct after he was found to have abnormal levels of testosterone following an out-of-competition test taken on June 8th.
"He broke his commitment to us, so his contract has been terminated", said T-Mobile's boss Rolf Aldag. "Of course the positive doping test came as a shock to us, but it shows the effectiveness and importance of our internal testing and NADA's testing."
Aldag now expects a "complete and comprehensive explanation" from Sinkwitz, as well as his close cooperation with the German Cycling Federation (BDR).
"Patrik needs to come clean on everything, so some light can beshed on this affair."
Christian Frommert, Deutsche Telekom's senior spokesman, welcomed the action and said: "The fact that Mr Sinkewitz passed on the opening of the B-sample means that he is accepting the results of the A-sample. We thus have a clear-cut doping case."
According to Aldag, Sinkewitz will now face a two-year ban from competition - and will be obliged to repay a year's salary for a doping violation.
T-Mobile moved swiftly to sack Sinkewitz after he revealed his decision on Tuesday to not have his second urine sample analysed.
In a statement on his website, Sinkewitz gave his explanation of why he tested positive.
"I have withdrawn my application for the opening of the B sample," he said. "I want to answer for what I have done and deal with the consequences of my actions. I do not want to hide, but explain the truth. I had been using a product called Testogel, which is supplied by the company Jenapharm, to balance testosterone deficits. The gel is applied on the skin and absorbed into the body. It helps the body to recover after hard training.
"Without thinking, in a moment of huge stupidity, I applied some to my upper arm in our training camp in France in the evening before the dope test. I did this instinctively and without thinking of the possible results. It has proved to be a huge mistake and lack of responsibility has let down the team, our sponsors and cycling as a sport. My actions have caused great distress and I have done exactly what T-Mobile is striving to avoid to act a role-model for others. I regret this profoundly.
"My admission should be my first step in my redemption. I will make myself available for the German Cycling Federation (BDR) and the independent committee it will set up. I want to do whatever I can, so cycling can exist without doping and all it's sporting fascinations can be realised. I wish that all bicycle teams, above all "my" T-Mobile team, will be allowed to continue and not discouraged by events. I am ready to take part in a new cycling. I am willing to take up this challenge."
Sinkewitz's positive test was announced on July 18, three days after he had abandoned this year's Tour after crashing into a spectator at the end of the eighth stage.
© AFP and BikeRadar 2007