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BMC Ends Astana Sponsorship

Published October 16, 2007

GRENCHEN, Switzerland (BRAIN)—The first shoe has dropped.

Swiss bicycle manufacturers BMC has terminated its sponsorship agreement with the Astana pro cycling team as a direct result of the team’s drugging scandal.

“The reason for this is the latest case of doping that occurred in the Astana team during the Tour de France that has just ended,” said Markus Zehnder, head of marketing and communication for BMC. Astana team leader and pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for homologous blood doping during the Tour and has since been fired by the Astana team.

“Whether BMC will engage again in the future as a sponsor of a professional cycling team is still an open question. The other current BMC sponsoring activities in professional cycling, mountain biking and triathlon are not concerned by the present decision,” Zehnder said in a press statement.

Bigger, multi-million-dollar sponsorship questions remain, one of the biggest among them being whether Deutsche Telekom will continue supporting the German T-Mobile team in the wake of team rider Patrik Sinkewitz’s positive test for testosterone during his training for the tour. T-Mobile has fired him, as well. Sinkewitz had already withdrawn from the Tour after a bad crash.

Deutsche Telekom will announce its decision within two weeks, a spokesman said. The telecommunications giant will weigh not only the Sinkewitz scandal, but also others, as it reviews its relationship with cycling.

Among other disgraces from the Tour, Team Rabobank yanked yellow jersey holder Michael Rasmussen from the Tour as it learned he’d lied about his whereabouts when he missed pre-race doping tests. Cofidis rider Cristian Moreni, who tested positive for testosterone during the race, was ejected from the race, and both the Astana and Cofidis teams left the Tour after the alleged doping by their riders was revealed.

And the Paris streets had hardly been cleared of Sunday’s final stage before news came that the A sample of Spanish rider Iban Mayo, Prodir Saunier-Duval, has tested positive for the artificial blood booster EPO. The team has suspended Mayo pending outcome of the B sample tests. —John Crenshaw

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