Discovery Channel cites internal pressure for dropping cycling sponsorship

By Susan Westemeyer The Discovery Channel's decision to drop its sponsorship of the cycling team was...

By Susan Westemeyer

The Discovery Channel's decision to drop its sponsorship of the cycling team was not due to cycling's current doping problems, but these problems could make the search for a new sponsor more difficult. In an interview with the New York Times, Discovery Channel spokeswoman Annie Howell said that the doping difficulties "were not a part of the decision," and added that the the company had "deep respect" for team director Johan Bruyneel and the rest of the team management.

In another interview with the Times, Bill Stapleton, a part-owner of the team, said they hoped to find another American sponsor for the team. He noted, however, that Floyd Landis' positive test after the Tour de France "took the wind out of a lot of peoples' sails" around cycling. In addition, some of the co-sponsors have "expressed their displeasure and doubts about continuing."

"Nobody asked to be let out of their contract," he said. "What we said to all of our sponsors was that Floyd wasn't on our team, and we never had a positive test. We understand it's a suspect environment right now, but we answered all their questions." Discussions have already been held with several potential sponsors. "Right now, it's an easy 'no' because of everything that has gone on in the sport," Stapleton noted. "The good news is we have plenty of time. We have a number of target companies, and we've already talked with some of them, but I think it could be more difficult than the last time [he looked for a new sponsor]."

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