Rabobank Groep, the biggest Dutch mortgage lender, will end its 17-year sponsorship of professional cycling after its team was linked to the doping scandal involving Lance Armstrong.
Rabobank has lost confidence in pro cycling following a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last week, board member Bert Bruggink said on the bank’s website. The report, which described widespread cheating, said American rider Levi Leipheimer doped when on the Rabobank team in 2003. Current team rider Carlos Barredo of Spain was suspended yesterday pending an investigation of his blood profiles.
The company is among the biggest sponsors of professional cycling, spending as much as 15 million euros ($19.6 million) on the sport last year. Its women’s team includes Olympic road-race champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands. Rabobank will withdraw its name from its men’s and women’s pro teams on Dec. 31, although it will fund them for one more year through a foundation, Bruggink told reporters.
“We are now longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport,” Bruggink said. “We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future.” He said it was a “painful” decision because it affects fans and cyclists who aren’t deserving of blame.
This week, Nike Inc. (NKE:US) and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) were among companies that said they were withdrawing support from Armstrong after the USADA report, according to which the Texan had “engaged in serial cheating.” USADA stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles in August.
Earlier today, Stephen Hodge quit as vice-president of Cycling Australia after he admitted doping in a career as a professional rider that ended in 1996.
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