COMMENT: T-MOBILE SPONSORSHIP MUST REMAIN
How many more times are news agencies, newspapers, magazines and websites going to run the ‘T-Mobile to review sponsorship’ story? The threatened annulment of sponsorship first came to light this April when former riders Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel admitted to using EPO during the mid 1990’s.
Since then this story seems to have come out once every month, regular as clockwork. When Sinkewitz’s positive test for testosterone was announced during this year’s Tour de France, T-Mobile's sponsorship deal was again brought into question.
A press conference was called weeks after the Tour and the company eventually announced its intention to stick it out. So why has the question been raised again?
Have Sinkewitz’s latest admissions that blood doping went on in 2006 with team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid from Freiburg University really surprised anyone? This was the Jan Ullrich team after all. We already knew that those two doctors had administered EPO to the Team Telekom riders, was anyone so naive to think that no more revelations were going to come out?
The whole environment now surrounding the anti-doping effort in Germany has settled in to a pattern of capture, admission, compliance with the authorities, before finally more information on doping comes out.
Chances are the latest article in Der Spiegel won't be the last to involve T-Mobile riders of the past.
The revelations are undeniably damaging to T-Mobile’s image, but the very reason they are coming out (and one of the main reasons the attitude to doping has changed throughout the sport) is thanks to their excellent anti-doping programme.
Once they put this in place and became an openly clean team, doing more testing than others, they found themselves holding a double-edged sword. Riders were never going to clean up at the drop of a hat - it takes years to change attitudes - so some were always going to get caught. In the long-term, that's a good thing.
T-Mobile's clean up is the very reason the skeletons are climbing out of the closet, the worst thing they could do is slam the door shut again by walking away.
Stapleton confident that T-Mobile will stay with team
T-Mobile confirms continuing sponsorship of squad
T-Mobile release Sinkewitz from squad
Sinkewitz fails dope test
T-Mobile release Honchar after doping test