After doping scandals the past two seasons, the German company no longer wants the T-Mobile name associated with the sport
Deutsche Telekom, which fielded a legendary cycling team led in the 1990s by Tour de France winners like Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich, has pulled out of bicycle racing, according to an announcement by the company Tuesday.
The team, which in the meantime had changed its name to T-Mobile, will start riding under new sponsorship and an entirely new name. Team manager Bob Stapleton says it will now be called "Team High Road."
The T-Mobile team has been plagued for two seasons with a string of high-profile doping scandals, starting with the firing of Jan Ullrich in connection with a Spanish doping scandal in 2006 and the suspension last May of two team doctors who later admitting to doping some riders.
"We have decided to take this step to distance ourselves and the T-Mobile brand from the latest doping revelations in sport and especially in cycling," said Deutsche Telekom in a statement.
Former T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz was sacked in July after abnormal levels of testosterone were found in his blood, and two weeks ago he was suspended from riding for a year. Sinkewitz has said doping had occurred at the team, both before and after Ullrich was a member. Ullrich has denied involvement in doping.
Stapleton reacted to the sponsorship announcement in a statement. "The decision by T-Mobile is a challenge for the whole sport as well as our team," he said. "We hope to go forward independently with the team to achieve our goals of continued competitive success and being a leader in anti-doping efforts in professional cycling."
High Road Sports is Stapleton's own management company, which owns the team's pro tour license. T-Mobile is the mobile phone subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, which started sponsoring cyclists in 1991.
Before today's announcement, the Telekom contract had been set to run through 2010.