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Telekom to decide future within weeks

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile will commence analysis on its financial involvement with cycling, and whether the pair have a relationship going forward, with a decision expect by August 10 on the company's future involvement. The company has pledged its long dedication to sports sponsorship will continue, but that may not involve cycling sponsorship.

"The hour of reconstruction has come and many people are now reflecting more critically on what can be done for cycling," said Christian Frommert, vice president of sponsoring communications at T-Mobile's parent company Deutsche Telekom. "Perhaps the Tour has touched rock bottom - if so, it offers a chance for renewal and a clean break with the past. At this moment it is difficult to see how this renewal can shape up - and who will be around to shape it. For that we will have to wait and see."

After year's of turmoil surrounding the T-Mobile name, including the exclusion of Jan Ullrich from the 2006 Tour de France after being named in the Operación Puerto scandal, 2007 has been another difficult season for the squad which has pledged to fight doping unconditionally. In addition now former T-Mobile rider Patrick Sinkewitz testing non-negative during this year's Tour, the squad has already released Serhiy Honchar from its ranks this season, with the rider recording irregularities in blood tests. The T-Mobile name has also been linked with high-profile admissions from former riders including Erik Zabel, Bjarne Riis and the team's current director sportif Rolf Aldag.

Rumours have flown over the past month that the company may well end its sponsorship. "We are taking our time to discuss this matter in a calm and considered manner," he noted in an interview on T-mobile-team.com. "What's certain is that the Deutsche Telekom is a committed patron of sport - and that will remain the case. The company is conscious of it responsibilities. And that means upping the push for clean and fair sport."

He wouldn't name an exact date that the company might make its decision, but indicated it would be before the beginning of the Deutschland Tour on August 10. "We will hold discussions with politicians, sports bodies and the media," he noted, showing a thorough approach to its decision. "We will take as much time as we need. We all owe it that. But there must be closure on this within the next two weeks."

Frommert called for a whole new system to fight doping. "A more credible infrastructure must be constructed; a professional framework, with clear regulations, strict testing and tough sanctions directed by competent figures with the appropriate track record," he said. "The system must be strong enough to withstand the collateral damage of exposing cheats - this should not be a sign of collapse but of progress."

And the very fact that T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz was found to have tested positive "was exactly through this new system," he said. Telekom has given 450,000 Euros to the German National Anti-Doping Agency this year, with 50,000 of that sum to be used for out-of-competition testing of T-Mobile riders.

"And it was an internal test, a blood volume control, that revealed abnormalities in Serhiy Hochar's blood levels, leading to his expulsion from the team," he noted. "That is how we can move forward, by degrees. Collectively, competently and on a sustainable basis. At the T-Mobile Team, this system is being led by Bob Stapleton, a person of integrity - and the system must be embedded in the sport."

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