The Canyon bicycle company has announced that is has decided to end Erik Zabel's links to the company as a brand ambassador, but offered support to the former sprinter and Milan-San Remo winner, saying he will have a role in a future promotional project currently under development.
Zabel confessed to having used EPO, cortisone and even blood doping from 1996 to 2004 after his name appeared on the “positive” list created by the French Senate investigation for EPO from the 1998 Tour de France. In 2007 he admitted he tried EPO for a week in 1996 but had stopped taking the blood boosting drug due its side effects. He admitted that was a lie.
Zabel has also been suspended as sprint coach by the Russian Katusha team that uses Canyon bikes. The German bike company announced it decision in a statement.
"We do not accept doping of any kind and were deeply disappointed to hear about Erik’s latest statement on his past. The consequence of this is that Erik will no longer be able to continue his function as Canyon’s brand ambassador, nor will he continue his role as the mentor of the Young Heroes Team," Canyon CEO Roman Arnold said in the statement.
Arnold claimed it decision was not a mere public relations stunt.
"We believe that our industry is not currently treating athletes who admit to doping fairly. We have all benefited immensely from the enthusiasm that has been generated for the sport and have always distanced ourselves from 'individual cases'. However there simply are no 'individual cases', but we are talking about real people and individuals here who cannot simply be reduced to mere doping perpetrators," he said in the statement.
"We therefore don’t simply want to follow the typical example of the professional cycling world and the general public just to make life easy for ourselves.
"Our values dictate that we do not impose across the board sanctions on people who we have built relationships with based on trust. We condemn Erik’s actions, but we do not condemn the person. That is why we now want to find a new way of working together with Erik in the future."
"We will be starting a new project in the coming weeks which we have been considering for some time and specifically involves our general attitude to cycle sport. We will be asking Erik to help us with this new project and will keep you updated on further developments soon.