[Marxism] Lance Armstrong team disbands because of drug problems
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 11 07:10:45 MDT 2007
NY Times, August 11, 2007
Armstrong Team Falls With Cycling’s Image
By EDWARD WYATT and IAN AUSTEN
The cycling team of Lance Armstrong and of this year’s Tour de France
winner is disbanding for lack of a sponsor, the latest evidence that the
sport is collapsing under the weight of persistent doping problems.
The team, the Discovery Channel, has been one of the sport’s most
successful franchises. The image crisis has turned even Armstrong into a
pessimist about cycling’s short-term future.
Many of cycling’s best riders have failed drug tests or been linked to
doping in recent years, and doping issues last month all but overwhelmed
the sport’s marquee event, the Tour de France. For a sport whose teams
enjoy no revenue from ticket sales or television rights, the resulting
publicity has started to drain its lifeblood: the sponsors that spend
millions of dollars to finance the teams.
Known for the past three years as Discovery Channel and before that as
the United States Postal Service squad, the team is owned by Tailwind
Sports, a San Francisco-based company that is partly owned by Armstrong.
The only American team at cycling’s top rank, it has been searching for
a new sponsor since February, when the parent of the Discovery Channel
network decided not to renew its three-year contract.
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Armstrong and Bill
Stapleton, the team’s general manager, said that they had been “90
percent there” to securing a new sponsorship deal, but that the
upheavals in the sport ultimately were too much to overcome.
“We finally concluded that we couldn’t in good conscience make a
recommendation to a company to spend the sort of money that is
necessary,” Stapleton said. The team wanted a $15 million annual
commitment for three years.
Armstrong agreed. “There are too many questions in the sport,” he said,
citing, in addition to the doping scandals, the poor relationship that
was evident last month between the company that organizes the Tour de
France and the International Cycling Union, the sport’s governing body,
which oversees competition but does not control most of the sport’s top
The doping that has plagued the sport refers to the illegal ways
athletes boost their supply of red blood cells before a competition as
well as the use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids.
The Discovery/Postal Service team had no shortage of success: Armstrong
won a record seven consecutive Tour de France titles, and this year’s
winner, Alberto Contador of Spain, and the third-place finisher, Levi
Leipheimer of the United States, wore Discovery jerseys.
And although none of its riders have ever failed a drug test, the
Discovery team was not able to avoid the suspicions of doping that have
beset the sport. Contador held a news conference in Spain yesterday to
deny the doping allegations that plagued him even before his victory
last month. Armstrong was dogged by similar allegations for much of his
career, though he has never tested positive and has always denied
doping. Discovery hired Ivan Basso to be its lead rider in December only
to fire him in the spring after he became the target of a doping
Three riders for other teams in this year’s Tour de France tested
positive during the race. In addition, Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was
ejected by his own team while leading the race after the 16th stage. The
team said he lied about his whereabouts after missing drug tests in the
month before the race. Another rider failed a drug test before the race
began. A third rider tested positive days after the race ended.
“It’s sad for cycling, and it’s certainly sad for American cycling,”
Armstrong said. He added that while he believes the sport will go on and
eventually will right itself, “I’m not confident that will happen in the
next 12 months.”
The Discovery Channel team, which is participating in the Tour of
Germany, will finish out its schedule of races this year, including the
Tour of Spain in September. The team, including Contador, Leipheimer,
and George Hincapie, will ride in the inaugural Tour of Missouri Sept.
Johan Bruyneel, the race director for the team through all of
Armstrong’s victories, said yesterday that he planned to step away from
the sport after having completed his most successful Tour de France,
with Contador winning, Leipheimer third and the Discovery team capturing
the award for the best team results in the race.
“It’s the end of an era,” he said. “Personally I don’t feel sad about
it. I think it’s a sad thing for the sport. But I’m proud of what we’ve
The Tailwind team, and its predecessors, has been involved in cycling
since 1989 and is the only American team among the 20 in the
International Cycling Union’s ProTour, the top level of professional
cycling. But it is not the first major American cycling team to fold.
The team that first employed Armstrong and was the first American squad
at the Tour de France, under the name 7-Eleven, abandoned the sport in
1996, unable to replace Motorola, which had become its sponsor.
Other companies have reconsidered their commitments, and as many as six
have said they expect to end their sponsorships after the 2008 season.
Earlier this week, T-Mobile, the mobile phone company that is part of
the German company Deutsche Telekom, said it would continue to sponsor a
team, but only after securing an agreement that it could end its support
if any of its riders failed a drug test.
Bob Stapleton, the general manager of the T-Mobile team, who is not
related to Discovery’s Stapleton, said companies that sponsor teams or
buy stadium-naming rights in other sports rarely have the risk that
sponsors of cycling teams have because their corporate names are not so
closely tied to a team.
Jonathan Vaughters, the director of the Slipstream team, an American
cycling team that is hoping to gain a wild-card entry to the Tour de
France next year, said he believed that while the doping incidents
looked bad now, they were creating a cleaner sport for the future.
Juliet Macur contributed
More information about the Marxism