Jan Ullrich of the T-Mobile Team has this morning been pulled from the race, which starts tomorrow. Team-mate Oscar Sevilla and sporting director Rudy Pevenage have also been suspended. All are implicated in the Spanish doping scandal that is engulfing pro cycling. The Team Discovery director believes 'Operacion Puerto' will be much bigger than the Festina scandal of 1998 and could be the biggest doping scandal in sport ever. Team sponsors will be reevaluating the worth of investing in cycling.

Team sponsor demands suspension of Tour de France favourite

T-Mobile, the German communications firm, demanded that the Team T-Mobile management suspend with immediate effect Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenge.

The team management complied with this demand. The riders and Pevenge are not yet accused of doping crimes but when ‘Operacion Puerto’ said there was a list of high-profile riders linked to the doctor at the heart of the scandal all T-Mobile riders were asked to sign written statements saying they’d never had contact with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.

Christian Frommert, director of sports communication for T-Mobile International, said:

"Our stance was always unequivocal. If we were presented with evidence, which leads us to doubt the credibility of one or other of our riders, then we act upon it immediately. That is the case now.“ T

Team manager Olaf Ludwig was deeply disappointed: "We talked to the riders several times and even have their declarations of innocence in written form.

"There are clear guidelines arranged with the riders, which leave no room for interpretation. This was also clear to Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage," said Ludwig.

Against this background, the sponsor as well as the team management repeatedly questioned the riders and the sporting director. "At first we had no reason to doubt the riders’ statements. Therefore, we couldn’t make any decision merely based on speculations, rumours and guesses“, said Frommert.

"This situation has now changed profoundly. Accordingly, we will now live up to our responsibility towards making cycling a clean sport."

Ullrich and Sevilla were told of their suspension on the team bus at 9.34am this morning. They were on the way to a pre-tour press conference.

Ullrich had been one of the favourites to win this year’s Tour de France, the first post-Lance Armstrong Tour.

Eurosport commentator David Duffield had Ullrich down as his favourite for the yellow jersey so an audio-and-pix podcast interview with ‘Duffers’ is now seriously out-of-date even though it was conducted just a few days ago.


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