By Brecht Decaluwé in Marseille and Sue George
After Stage 10 of the Tour de France ended in Marseille, the T-Mobile riders looked hammered, but it wasn't just the day's effort that was getting them down.
Nearly a year after Floyd Landis' positive Tour de France testosterone test, news broke Wednesday morning of T-Mobile team member Patrik Sinkewitz' positive test for testosterone in a June 8th out of competition test control a few days after the Bayern Rundfahrt during a team training camp. The news comes not long after several riders for the team's predecessor Team Telekom, including 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, admitted to doping.
Former wearer of the yellow jersey and Germany's hope for the future, Linus Gerdemann, talked with Cyclingnews about his teammate's positive test. "It's difficult to say something right now because we heard it just before the start. If it's true, then it is bad news for us, but it also shows that the system starts to work. It shows that the possibilities to dope are getting smaller.
"For sure it's not good for our team," said Gerdemann. "When someone is doping in the team, then he is also not sensible because it's not only his job [to be affected], but also that of 200 professionals."
Gerdemann still believes in the direction of anti-doping efforts. "I said it before that we're on the right course, but we're not at the finish yet. That's what I said Saturday [when he won stage 7] and that's what I say now. It's very difficult to dope in our team. I hope the control system evolves even more in this way, that's the future of cycling," Gerdemann concluded.
T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt was also passionate in his response, but chose to express himself by getting into a breakaway Wednesday and eventually finishing eighth.
Team General Manager Bob Stapleton was glad to talk with Cyclingnews in Marseille after hearing the news. "Clearly if the B-sample confirms the A - which is entirely likely - then it is a bitter disappointment," Stapleton said.
"On the other hand, it shows the testing works with this form of out-of-competition testing and the internal tests we do," said Stapleton. "They [the tests] have a powerful message: if you cheat, you have a good chance to get caught, and if you get caught, there are consequences.
"We go out of our way for these athletes, and we know we demand a lot in return. But there was trust and that has been broken. That is very disappointing."
When asked how he personally felt towards Sinkewitz, the American didn't hide his feelings. Stapleton said, "This is a guy we supported and who we gave every chance to do the right thing. When he puts all of his teammates at risk and puts the team and the sport in jeopardy, then I find that a gross disappointment and irresponsible." But he asked that the other riders in the Tour de France still receive the respect they deserve.
"We knew this [anti-doping project] was going to be a tough fight when we started it, but it was something that we felt was possible. We're going to stay and fight. The [team's] riders were informed by the media right as they were leaving today. They were obviously shocked, but they headed for their bikes and wanted to show that they believe in what they're doing," Stapleton said
Lefevre and McQuaid respond to curtailed TV coverage
Sinkewitz' test prompted German public TV station ARD/ZDF to stop broadcasting their live coverage of the Tour de France until his case is resolved. IPCT President Patrick Lefevre shared his thoughts with Cyclingnews. "I regret what happened because our international sponsors are missing out on 80 million people who can't watch the race anymore. I also regret that it took five weeks before the results were known. Everybody came to London to make a beautiful Tour de France, to avoid scandals. Sinkewitz wasn't positive in the Tour de France, but he shouldn't have been at the start since he was controlled much earlier.
Sinkewitz withdrew from the Tour de France earlier this week after suffering a broken nose and a shoulder injury following a collision with a spectator. If his B sample also proves positive, he may be subjected to a two-year ban from the sport and a fine of one year of his income. He is presently suspended by his team, pending an outcome in the case.
According to Reuters, UCI president Pat McQuaid declined to comment until results of the B sample are in although he speculated on a possible positive outcome, "I think it is very unfortunate if this is the case." Sinkewitz will have five days after receiving written notice to request a test of his B sample.
Christian Frommert, director of sports communication for sponsor Deutsche Telekom AG, commented on team's website t-mobile-team.com about the future of the company's cycling sponsorship. "After the Tour de France, everybody involved will sit down to discuss the way forward in a calm and considered way."