By Susan Westemeyer
Deutsche Telekom AG has stopped its sponsorship of T-Mobile Team, effective immediately, it announced Tuesday afternoon. However, High Road Sports Inc., the team management company, said 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'."
Telekom had sponsored the team, under the names Team Telekom and T-Mobile Team, since 1991. "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."
The team had been rocked over the last two seasons by a series of doping cases. "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.
High Road Sports, owned by Bob Stapleton, holds the team's ProTour license. "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," said Stapleton.
"We have an outstanding international roster of exciting young talent backed by proven veteran leadership for 2008," he added. "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," noted Stapleton. The team is focused on beginning its 2008 campaign with the first Race, the Tour Down Under in Australia in January.
The team's sponsorship contract was set to run until December 31, 2010.