By Susan Westemeyer
After Deutsche Telekom announced Tuesday that it would cancel its sponsorship effective immediately, the T-Mobile Team management quickly announced that it would continue on under the name of its management company, High Road Sports, which also holds the UCI ProTour license. Manager Bob Stapleton now becomes team owner, and two teams now breathe a sigh of relief that the organization is able to continue.
Weeks of uncertainty and rumour followed the T-Mobile team after its long-standing sponsor Deutsche Telekom mulled over pulling its sponsorship after the doping positive of Patrik Sinkewitz was announced during the Tour de France. The title sponsor, convinced of general manager Bob Stapleton's vision for the future, announced in August, however, that it would stay through 2010.
The announcement earned the company praise from Stapleton and the UCI, but all of that happened before another doping positive and before Sinkewitz testified about doping practices on the team in return for a shortened suspension. What followed was a sordid tale of blood doping and more; practices which he claimed were so commonplace, he didn't even see it as wrong.
Despite Sinkewitz long being fired from the team, each report of doping on the team in the past - even if it was tempered by insistence that Stapleton had cleaned up the team - continued to associate the T-Mobile name with scandal. This connection proved to be too much for the telecommunications giant, who ended its sponsorship abruptly on Tuesday.
With a sponsorship contract scheduled to run through 2010, the firm and Stapleton negotiated a "mutually agreeable termination", he said, with all details to remain confidential. What was made clear was that the team will continue on under the name of the management firm for the near future.
"We have enough money to run the team for the next two years without finding a new main sponsor," he said. "We will continue to look for a new sponsor but we will take our time. It must be the right sponsor, one who is willing to make a long-term commitment to the sport and who will be good for the sport."
Stapleton indicated that these funds come from other sponsors and suppliers, "as well as a couple of well-intentioned investors," who wish to remain anonymous at this time according to Stapleton. He refused to go into financial detail.
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