Rabobank to join Armstrong exodus
THE HAGUE- Agence France-Presse
AP photoRabobank said on Oct. 19 that it would stop sponsoring professional cycling at the end of this year, in the wake of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report on the use of banned substances in the sport.
“We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport,” the Dutch bank’s chief financial officer, Bert Bruggink, said as he announced the end of its 17-year backing.
“We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future,” a statement quoted him as saying.
Rabobank said the “inevitable” decision came following the USADA report on Lance Armstrong which was published last week and put the seven-time Tour de France winner at the heart of the biggest doping programme in the history of sport.
“For us the USADA report was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s enough,” Bruggink told a press conference.
Rabobank is one of 18 top-level cycling teams and the decision hits a number of the sport’s major names, including Dutch rider Robert Gesink, who told cyclingnews.com: “It feels like a smack in the face at this moment.”
“I don’t have any words for it but it’s one of the worst things that could happen,” he added, suggesting that the current crop of riders were being made to pay for the sins of their predecessors.
The Armstrong effect
The Rabobank cycling team said in a statement on its website that it regretted the move.
“Many talents have had the chance to develop thanks to Rabobank,” it said.
Scottish cyclist David Millar criticized the decision yesterday.
“Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from your young clean guys who are part of the solution,” he wrote on Twitter.
Rabobank’s sponsorship is the latest casualty of the the far-reaching Armstrong scandal, which the USADA called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”