Seven-time Tour de France winner. Armstrong was a professional road racing cyclist and survivor of testicular cancer who retired in early 2011. In June 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency charged him of using illegal performance enhancing drugs based on evident of blood samples and other cyclists’ testimony. Armstrong gave up fighting against the allegation in August. On October 22, Union Cycliste Internationale(UCI) announced it recognizes USADA' findings, banning Armstrong for life and stripping all his seven Tour de France titles.
Rabobank withdraws cycling team sponsorship after Armstrong scandal
Warning shot as major sponsor pulls out, questioning whether sport can ever recover
The Lance Armstrong affair prompted a major sponsor to cut ties with cycling yesterday, raising questions about whether the sport can ever restore its tainted image.
Rabobank, which has sponsored a professional cycling team for the last 17 years, said cycling had been irrevocably damaged by a succession of doping cases, not just the high-profile scandal involving seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong.
The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) last week placed the Texan at the heart of what it alleged was the biggest doping programme in sports history.
The claim has heaped pressure on cycling's governing body and seen Armstrong lose a string of high-profile backers. "We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport," Rabobank board member Bert Bruggink said.
"We are not confident this will change for the better in the foreseeable future," he said, later telling a news conference the damning Usada report into Armstrong was "the straw that broke the camel's back". He added that the Usada report showed that there was a "sickness", not only in international cycle racing, but also "at the highest level within cycling, including a number of the relevant authorities, including checks on the use of doping".
Rabobank has been the standard-bearer for Dutch cycling and enjoyed success.
But it has also been mired in doping scandals, including one involving Danish rider Michael Rasmussen when he was wearing the leader's yellow jersey on the 2007 Tour de France.
The UCI said it "understood the context" of Rabobank's decision, but the withdrawal is a clear warning that the sport could see further financial backing fall away unless it takes strong action to stamp out doping.
The fall-out from the Armstrong affair has been felt around the world, with Cycling Australia (CA) announcing that its vice-president, Stephen Hodge, had resigned after admitting taking performance-enhancing drugs during his professional career.
His departure follows former Olympian Matt White, who was sacked this week from his job as part of CA's men's road racing programme and as sporting director of the Orica-GreenEDGE team, also after saying he doped during his career.
Meanwhile, a report in Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper on Thursday claimed that a host of top riders and even whole teams were linked to the sports doctor who oversaw Armstrong's doping programme, stoking fears of fresh controversy.