Armstrong era closes as Discovery disbands
Vail, CO Colorado
PARIS ” Lance Armstrong’s former team is disbanding.
Discovery Channel said Friday it will cease operations at the end of this season because it has been unable to find a new sponsor. Doping scandals have left cycling reeling and made sponsors jittery.
“I do not think you have seen the last of this organization in the sport,” Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion and co-owner of the team, said in a statement. “But clearly things need to improve on many levels, with a more unified front, before you would see us venture back into cycling.”
Discovery Channel featured the winner (Alberto Contador of Spain) and third-place finisher (Levi Leipheimer of the U.S.) at last month’s Tour de France.
On Friday, Contador denied any involvement in doping following accusations he was linked to the Operation Puerto drug investigation in Spain.
“This was a difficult decision, not made any easier by our recent Tour de France success,” Discovery Channel general manager Bill Stapleton said. “We were in talks with a number of companies about the opportunity and were confident a new sponsor was imminent. We have chosen, however, to end those discussions.”
The team said it will still ride in this year’s Tour of Spain and the Tour of Missouri.
Tailwind Sports, which owns and operates Discovery Channel, suggested in its statement that Armstrong’s mentor, Johan Bruyneel, will retire. He coached Armstrong through his record seven Tour wins and Contador through his 2007 title, meaning he oversaw victories in eight of the last nine Tours.
“Everybody is really impressed with our program, our team, our results, but the current climate does not allow us to draw in (a sponsor) of the magnitude we are looking for,” Bruyneel said on Belgium’s VRT network.
“I’m going to miss the staff, riders and the excitement of the races, but not all the infighting between the teams,” he said in the tean statement. “This team has become my family and it is very sad to think that we will not be together next season.”
Disovery Channel is only U.S.-based elite professional team in cycling. It was previously known as the U.S. Postal Service team. With the decision to fold, Contador will be one of 27 riders looking for new jobs.