Rabobank announced today it will end sponsorship of its men’s and women’s professional teams on December 31, ending the longest-running Dutch team amid the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

“Rabobank has come to this decision following publication of the report from the American doping authority USADA last week,” read a press release. “This report speaks volumes.”

It took over the sponsorship of the Novell team 15 years ago, starting with the 1996 season. The Dutch banking group sponsors teams at different levels of cycling teams, including its professional and Under-23 teams. Many current Dutch professionals, and some foreigners including American Tejay Van Garderen, started with its amateur team. The decision today only relates to the professional teams, however.

“Rabobank will continue its ties with amateur cycling as a sponsor, including the youth training and the cyclo-cross team.”

Rabobank riders still under contract for next season will be able to ride in plain kit. “The professionals and the women will be put as ‘white label’ under a new foundation yet to be established, while the continentals and the crossers will be accommodated by the Dutch Cycling Federation. The careers of a generation of riders will this way be secured,” said Rabobank.

Whether the ‘white label’ kit would carry any sponsors names was not stated.

USADA decision
The decision comes just over a week after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) made public its Armstrong investigation files. It published its 202-page ‘Reasoned Decision’ on the internet and sent a 1,000-page tome to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The UCI must give the OK to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France wins or appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by October 31.

Levi Leipheimer testified in the agency’s case and told how he received EPO from Rabobank’s doctor. “I continued to use EPO while with Rabobank in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and was also assisted in using it by the Rabobank team doctor ‘Other-8’ from whom I purchased EPO. During my time on Rabobank I was aware that ‘Rider-14’ was using EPO, and on several occasions we discussed his EPO use.”

It became worse. The UCI officially requested yesterday that Spain open a disciplinary hearing against Rabobank rider Carlos Barredo “on the basis of the information provided by the blood profile in his biological passport.”

Rabobank suffered from doping scandals in the past, from rising star Thomas Dekker testing positive for EPO to Michael Rasmussen being sent home while leading the Tour de France.

“It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future,” said Bert Bruggink, member of the managing board.

“Cycling is a beautiful sport, which millions of Dutch people enjoy and a large number of those Dutch people are clients of Rabobank. But our decision stands: we are pulling out of professional cycling. It is painful. Not just for Rabobank, but especially for the enthusiasts and the cyclists who are not to blame in this.”

Rabobank will explain further at 10:30 this morning in a press conference in Utrecht. Without Rabobank, Vacansoleil and Argos-Shimano remain the only professional Dutch teams.

UCI responds
The UCI issued a statement shortly after the Rabobank announcement. “In light of the difficult period, namely the high public interest in past doping issues and perhaps a more recent action taken by the UCI against a rider of the team, the UCI understands the context which has led to this decision being reached.”  

“Despite inevitable and sometimes painful consequences, the UCI reaffirms its commitment to the fight against doping and full transparency about potential anti-doping rule violations.” 

UCI president Pat McQuaid then went on to thank Rabobank for “the many years of successful partnership… which have been beneficial for all”.

Related links

Barredo under scrutiny for biological passport anomaly

Armstrong steps down as LiveStrong chairman, Nike and Trek terminate his contract

USADA’s Armstrong doping report in brief

USADA doping report repercussions continue

Leipheimer sacked by Omega Pharma-QuickStep

Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Danielson all admit to doping

USADA publishes details of Amrstrong doping case

UCI responds to USADA Armstrong doping evidence

Former Armstrong team-mate Barry: Doping had become an epidemic problem

Hincapie admits to doping during career

  • Miki

    Amateur cycling is based on drugs much more than professional cycling.
    It is like a drugstore. In industrial quantities.

  • robin gambrill

    I would offer an amnesty for all the dopers as of today, but from today on anyone proven to take dope I would ban for life,no second chance.
    It is a joke that cyclist and people in other sports lie and cheat for years,all of a sudden feel guilty,then write a book.
    Drugs or not Armstrong was better than the rest,they all took dope,lets move on before other sponsors leave the sport. Rabo exit B tragic..

  • Ken Evans

    Rabobank has been a sponsor for decades,
    McQuaid hasn’t been able to make the clean-up of pro racing look convincing.

    The huge popularity of cycling in Holland, shows the potential for the sport, if the UCI had better leadership.

    Without a change at the UCI, a breakaway CLEAN cycling body might be the only solution.
    Led by people committed untainted racing, such as Brailsford, etc.

    If the big race organizers, sponsors, and TV companies agree,
    all the old dopers can be excluded from the sport, and only honest people allowed to participate.

    Banned riders could be given a second chance to return to the sport, but not a third.
    Any rider banned should not be allowed to be a DS, or team manager.

  • JDunn

    Pretty hypocritical for Rabobank to leave in such a sanctimonious way. They didn’t seem to worry about the positives that have afflicted the team over 28 years but decided that Armstrong was suddenly too much to bear?

    Just as cycling is cleaning itself up, they decide to leave. Lame.

  • Iain C

    “It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future,”

    Say’s it all really. The too have no confidence in the UCI to sort it out…Maybe not being complicit in doping would be a start.

  • leroche

    Phonak, Saunier Duval, Trek, Rabobank, Nike
    Some big sponsors that have rightly left the sport due to the actions of drug cheats. I do hope the Messrs Landis, Rico, Armstrong, Rasmussen etc realise what they’ve begun.
    All quite sad really.

  • TG

    Maybe the riders and people running the teams might think carefully about riders who are doping on their teams. Up to now it has been a case of the rider leaving the team (sponsor) when caught. Is this the start of the team (sponsor) leaving the riders? If the result of a positive is that all of the team are affected, then maybe peer pressure will start to work.

  • Colnago dave

    Is this the first of many if so a SARCASTIC THANK YOU to all the dope cheats out there with an additional EXTRA STRONG ONE to the UCI and all the riders who did not stand up and be counted. Armstrong was the catalyst to this with his dtermination to dominate the TDF, but whilst he is the highest profile along with USPS he only joined in the general malaise at the time and then made it into an art form.
    When you read comments from past TDF winners over the last 50/60 years about how hard it is is the answer to do away with these sometime boring 3 week events. Events show that the cheats would continue to dope for a fish & chipper so what is the answer?

  • Neil of Derby

    Whilst it’s a sad day for cycling when a long-term sponsor is to leave the sport, the irony of bankers taking the moral high ground after everything they’ve done is not lost on me that’s for sure!