Rabobank Groep, the Dutch mortgage lender which in October ended its 17-year sponsorship of cycling, said doping admissions made by three of its former athletes were “disturbing and shocking.”
In the past week, Danny Nelissen, Marc Lotz and Thomas Dekker have admitted to using banned performance-enhancing substances to various news outlets in the Netherlands. Nelissen told Dutch broadcaster RTL he’d started using the endurance-boosting drug EPO during the Tour de France in 1996 and 1997, when he was riding for Rabobank.
Lotz told broadcaster L1 he’d started using EPO and cortisone in 2001, while Dekker told Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that “doping was a way of life for many of my teammates and colleagues.”
“Various parties concerned have recently made, either anonymously or not, admissions in the media regarding the use of doping by riders on the Rabo Cycling Team,” Rabobank said in a statement today.
“Some admissions date back to 1996 when Rabobank first began sponsoring the sport of cycling,” the bank added. “This is disturbing and shocking. Rabobank began sponsoring the sport of cycling 17 years ago with absolute confidence and a clear mission. Rabobank has always sought a clean sport and has done everything possible since the start of its sponsorship activities to enforce a zero-tolerance policy.”
The bank refused to comment on “individual admissions and testimonies.”
Rabobank did say that the recent admissions “reconfirm” its belief the decision in October to drop its 15 million-euro ($20 million) of annual spending on its Tour de France team after it was linked to the doping scandal involving Lance Armstrong was the right one.
A report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October, which described widespread cheating, said American rider Levi Leipheimer doped when on the Rabobank team in 2003. Leipheimer is a former teammate of Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life for what USADA said in October was “serial cheating.”
Armstrong, also of the U.S., admitted to doping in a television interview last week following years of denials.