Deutsche Telekom pulls the plug - Stapleton continues

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27.11.2007/ After two years of doping scandals Deutsche Telekom terminated its sponsorship of the T-Mobile Team. Team manager Bob Stapleton anounced that the men and women team will continue. The teams will now be known as 'Team High Road'.

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Lorenzo Bernucci tested positive this year. (picture: Cyclingheroes)

After 16 years Deutsche Telekom ended its sponsorship of the T-Mobile team with immediate effect. The team website has been shut down on 16:00 hours Berlin time today.
"We arrived at this decision to separate our brand from further exposure from doping in sport and cycling specifically. This was a difficult decision given our long history of support for professional cycling and the efforts of Bob Stapleton in managing the team in 2007", said Deutsche Telekom Board member and CEO of T-Mobile International Hamid Akhavan. “We have an obligation to our employees, customers and shareholders to focus our attention and resources on our core businesses”, added Akhavan.

"We have worked very hard with the current team management to promote a clean cycling sport but we reached the decision to continue our efforts to rid all sports of doping by applying our resources in other directions. Deutsche Telekom AG wants to make it clear that this action is not based on any disagreement with or misconduct by team management”, Akhavan emphasized.

The decision wasn't a complete surprise after the T-Mobile team was rocked by a wave of doping confessions earlier this year and the positive tests of Patrick Sinkewitz and Lorenzo Bernucci. The scandal started after Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla were sent home before the start of last years Tour de France.

In German media it was speculated that team manager Bob Stapleton and Deutsche Telekom had disagreements about signing George Hincapie. According to German tabloid Bild, Stapleton even hired private detectives to find out if the sponsor knew about doping programms at the T-Mobile Team. The private detectives allegedly visited former T-Mobile riders Jan Ullrich and Steffen Wesemann. In todays Süddeutsche Zeitung Patrick Sinkewitz confirmed that he was also visited by the private detectives. Sinkewitz said: "They were really audacious, the stood in front of my door and asked if they all knew at T-Mobile."

Team owner High Road Sports Inc announced that its Elite Men's and Women's cycling teams will continue racing in 2008 after T-Mobile has ended its engagement. The teams will now be known as 'Team High Road'.

High Road Sports, Inc. holds a ProTour Team License and will seek authorization of the change in the team’s identity and operations from the governing body, the UCI. High Road and its subsidiaries own the infrastructure of both teams.

"T-Mobile's decision to end its involvement in professional cycling is a challenge for the sport and our team. We will review and adapt our operations, and continue to advance our leadership position in athletic success and commitment to clean and fair sport that began during our work with T-Mobile," says Bob Stapleton of High Road.

2007 was a very successful year for both teams, with the men's ProTourTeam taking 37 victories for the season and the women ending the season as the number one ranked team in the World by the UCI.

"We have an outstanding international roster of exciting young talent backed by proven veteran leadership for 2008," adds Stapleton. "We will likely be the youngest team in the ProTour and believe that together, these athletes can shape the future of the sport with their talent and commitment."

High Road Sports will use the next few weeks in intensive preparation for the 2008 racing season. "We have good options, but plenty of work to do to begin racing in less than 60 days" notes Stapleton. The team is focused on beginning its 2008 campaign with the first Race, the Tour Down Under in Australia in January.

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