London: British cyclist David Millar has lambasted Rabobank after the Dutch bank announced their “painful” end to sponsorship of professional cycling.
Rabobank said it would stop sponsoring professional cycling teams at the end of this year, after losing faith in the ability of the UCI, cycling’s governing body, to clean up the sport following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
In a twist later on Friday, however, at a press conference in Amsterdam, it emerged Rabobank will honour the contracts of those riders in their men’s team, meaning they can continue to race next year under a what the sport calls a “white label”.
Rabobank’s decision to end its long association with the sport follows publication of a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) last week which the Dutch bank said “spoke volumes” about the extent of the drug problem facing the sport.
However, Garmin-Sharp’s Millar said that Rabobank’s current crop of riders were drug-free and were seen as the future for a clean sport.
Millar tweeted: “Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from your young clean guys who are part of the solution. Sickening.”
Despite Rabobank’s withdrawal it appears there remains a lifeline for the men’s team.
“The cycling team is pleased with the opportunity that Rabobank will give the cycling teams to continue in the cycling sport, despite the bad news,” said a spokesman at a televised press conference.
“The professionals and the women will be put as ‘white label’ under a new foundation yet to be established, while the continentals and the crossers will be accommodated by the Dutch Cycling Federation. The careers of a generation of riders will this way be secured.”
Rabobank financial director Bert Bruggink added: “We will honour our contracts with the riders. The Pro teams come in a separate foundation and hence contractual and financial obligations are unconditional. For the riders it is not possible now to move to another team.”
The future of the women’s team — which includes World and Olympic champion Marieanne Vos — is not so clear.
“We were shocked at the many details of the USADA report, which was published last week. For us, this has made the glass more than full. Enough is enough. And we are not confident that cycling will improve in the medium term.”