By Susan Westemeyer
Deutsche Telekom will review the most recent doping confessions and once again decide whether it will continue with its sponsorship of the T-Mobile teams, allegedly at a meeting on Wednesday. However, Christian Frommert, director of Sponsoring Communications, sounded optimistic that the company would honour its commitment, saying, "We must now deal with this situation responsibly." In addition, Team Manager Bob Stapleton confirmed his support for the team's anti-doping programme and said that the team has asked to review the official Sinkewitz investigation files.
The German telecommunications firm's most recent sports crisis was caused by Patrik Sinkewitz's confession, which appeared this week in Spiegel magazine.
In an interview with FR-Online.de, Frommert said "We are stunned at the impudence and the unscrupulousness with which the doping continues, but there is more behind it.
"We are trying to find answers to the same questions as everyone else: Who? How? When?" he continued. "Because we can and will only make our decision on the basis of facts. We won't rush into action. ... We must gather strong facts in order to make a strong decision."
Could that decision be the one to end sponsorship? "We scrutinize our engagement all the time. The speculation of our quitting because of the doping debate has followed us for 18 months. As soon as we have something to say, we will say it. There will be a decision in the near future."
Frommert denied that the sponsor knew anything about doping on the team. "I can answer that question personally, since I stayed in the same hotel as the riders at the start of the Tour de France 2006. I knew absolutely nothing about Sinkewitz leaving the hotel and driving to Freiburg for a blood transfusion. They tell you they are going to their room. You don't know whether they all disappear out the back door. The hotel was surrounded by journalists around the clock at that time. Apparently none of them noticed it either."
As to whether the team management at the time, under the leadership of Olaf Ludwig, knew about what was happening, Frommert said, "This question also has to be cleared up. We will talk to everyone involved." Ludwig left the team last season and was replaced by Bob Stapleton, who introduced a new anti-doping programme.
One of those "involved" persons is team captain Michael Rogers, who transferred from Quick.Step to T-Mobile with Sinkewitz for the 2006 season. "We will have to talk to both the old and the new management about that," Frommert answered, adding that he assumed that Stapleton would "have a talk with Michael Rogers in light of the team's clearly-defined anti-doping policy and will then come to a decision."
Meanwhile, Stapleton has said that although he was not responsible for the team until January of this year, he will ask to be allowed to look at the files in the Sinkewitz case. "We take a fact based approach. We will review the available information when provided and act fairly and responsible within our rights," he said on the team's website, t-mobile-team.com. "Further, yesterday we formally requested that the UCI promptly review the Sinkewitz information regarding doping prior to our operation of the team, that has been provided directly to the UCI by the BDR or other authorities."
The American emphasized again the importance of changes that have been made at the team this year. "The interview and confessions of Patrik Sinkewitz in recent news articles confirm the necessity of the dramatic changes the sponsor and new management have made in the T-Mobile Team and the further changes needed in the sport. After we took over the team at the end of 2006 we have put in place new management, new riders, new procedures, new doctors, and a firm anti-doping policy and testing program. We continue to make more progressive changes in anticipation of the 2008 season."