Wednesday 16 November 2011

SunGard to leave cycling

As we approach the end of a year in which numerous companies have withdrawn their support from cycling, in some cases forcing the closure of successful teams, US-based software and IT firm SunGard is the latest to announce that it will be ending its support for the sport.

Bjarne Riis
(image credit: VeloSteve CC BY-SA 2.0)
SunGard became co-sponsor of Bjarne Riis' Danish team Saxo Bank-SunGard at the beginning of 2011. While spokesperson George Thomas refers to the deal as a "successful partnership" and says that it is a business decision, insiders and fans will naturally wonder if the company may be concerned about bad publicity stemming from team member and three-time Tour winner Alberto Contador's ongoing doping investigation - the Spanish rider, who says that his positive test result for Clenbuterol is due to having consumed tainted meat (the drug is commonly used - illegally, in Europe - to promote muscle growth in cattle), but the case has now been dragging on for many months with no court decision expected until early next year.

If Contador is the reason SunGard are withdrawing, even though he has not been proved guilty of anything and even though cycling has done more than any other sport to prevent doping over the last decade, it seems that it's still saddled with a druggy image, leaving sponsors likely to abandon ship as soon as there's a whiff of trouble rather than risk being linked to cheats.

Meanwhile, Danish investment bank Saxo Bank will remain and become sole sponsor of the squad, which will be renamed Team Saxo Bank.

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