Rujano investigation won’t harm sponsor search says Vacansoleil boss

Vacansoleil-DCM's investigation into José Rujano will not affect the team's search for a sponsor, according to the squad's management.

The team launched an investigation into its diminutive climber after it was alleged that he was part of Operazione Amateur, an inquiry about the trafficking of doping products such as EPO, CERA and Retacrit in Italy. Rujano denied any involvement almost immediately but team manager Dan Luijkx travelled to Spain to meet with the Venezuelan.

Perhaps of greater importance to the team is the search for a new sponsor. Vacansoleil's contract ends this season and the company has announced that it will make a final decision over their future in the coming months. Luijkx had a meeting with Vacansoleil's board on Tuesday and told Cyclingnews that he had contact with several international parties should Vacansoleil decide to walk away from their five-year relationship.

"We are busy with the investigation and we'll wait for all the results and then we'll make a statement. I don't know how long it will take but it could take weeks," Luijkx told Cyclingnews.

Meanwhile, Rujano is free to race, with only an indirect allegation currently at his feet.

"I think he's telling the truth but I want to see results before I make a conclusion. At this moment there are no reasons to not believe Rujano because the investigation when we hired him was good. We checked all the blood results and as I've said already there was no use of cortisones. There are no reasons not to believe him but we want to check everything."

Luijkx is still hopeful that Vacansoleil will decide to sign on for a further period with the team now safely established in the WorldTour ranks. Dutch cycling is currently going through a tough period, with Rabobank having pulled out of the sport last year and a number of former professional riders confessing to doping during their careers. The drip feed of negative stories means searching for a sponsorship has been an even harder task in an already economically strained environment.

"Yesterday I had a meeting with Vacansoleil and they're still waiting for April or May to decide. For sure it's not decided that they will not continue and we have the freedom to talk with other main sponsors but if we find something else we will come back to Vacansoleil as they can still take over the deal. We're talking to several parties worldwide and if one of them wants to sign I'll go back to Vacansoleil as they might want to take it over."

When asked if he would prefer to find a new backer or for Vacansoleil to remain as the title sponsor, Luijkx told Cyclingnews: "All I can say is that the relationship with Vacansoleil is very good. We've had a very good cooperation and this is our fifth year together.

“I was yesterday with the board from Vacansoleil as each month we have a meeting and this is absolutely a non-issue. He was not in our team during 2008 and 2009 so they know how we work and they know the contracts with the riders and what we incorporated in the contracts on the use of doping. They know how we investigate riders when we hire them.”

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.