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Germany

Cycling: T-Mobile Withdraws Tour de France TV Sponsorship

German telecommunications company T-Mobile said they have withdrawn their one-million-euro ($1.3 million) sponsorship from German TV coverage of the Tour de France and will invest instead in drug testing.

The Tour de France will likely have to do without T-Mobile ads

T-Mobile, the mobile phone division of Deutsche Telekom, paid to have their name appear on the public TV channels ARD and ZDF during the race, but the company now says it wants to use the money to strengthen Germany's national anti-doping agency.

Cycling's image in Germany has been rocked by several high-profile doping admissions from cyclists competing for the former Telekom team, now renamed Team T-Mobile.

Team T-Mobile will compete under that name in the Tour, which starts in London on July 7.

Although the German broadcasters are eager to keep hold of the money and run T-Mobile advertising, a spokesman for the telecommunications giants said they want the money to go into more stringent drug testing.

Jan Ullrich no longer with T-Mobile


"We understand ARD and ZDF's position, but we would appreciate it if the money wasn't spent on additional advertising," said a T-Mobile spokesman.

Michael Vesper, the president of the German Olympic Committee (DOSB), welcomed Telekom's proposal.

"I would be glad if the public broadcasters take up T-Mobile's good suggestion," he said.

Doping scandals

The Telekom team name has been dragged through the mud recently.

Denmark's Bjarne Riis was stripped of his 1996 Tour de France victory recently after the former Telekom cyclist admitted he took performance-enhancing drugs during the race.

Cycling has been tainted with numerous doping scandals


T-Mobile has decided not to select their Ukrainian time trial specialist Serhiy Honchar for next month's Tour de France following a suspicious blood test last month.

Plus, one of Germany's top cycling stars Erik Zabel admitted last month he had taken banned blood-boosting drug EPO (erythropoietin) in 1996 while competing for Telekom.

Ullrich's woes


Controversy also surrounds 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich.

A "soigneur" who worked with the Telekom team said he injected Ullrich with the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), although Ullrich denies the accusations.

German magazine Sport-Bild has revealed details of an e-mail from a friend of Ullrich's to Merkel which invited the German Chancellor to his Lake Constance home to help the 33-year-old "rehabilitate his reputation."

But government spokesman Thomas Steg is quoted in Wednesday's edition of Sport-Bild stating that "a meeting between the chancellor and Jan Ullrich is not considered appropriate."

Ullrich, who won the 1997 Tour de France, retired in February having been sacked by Team T-Mobile last July after he was linked, along with dozens of other riders, to the Spanish doping investigation dubbed "Operation Puerto" which has engulfed the sport since May 2006.

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