American insurance giant Liberty Mutual has instructed its Portuguese subsidiary, Liberty Seguros, to withdraw its backing of a pro cycling team due to ongoing drug scandals in the sport, including the ongoing investigation into Alberto Contador’s positive test for clenbuterol at the Tour de France.
The parent company, which is based in Boston, Massachusetts, has also vetoed any kind of direct support for pro cycling, said Liberty Seguros in a statement on its website, which also includes news of an initiative designed to boost business and consumer confidence under the perhaps unfortunate name of ‘Portugal Positivo.’ .
The statement added that the company is still recovering from the trauma caused by a succession of doping scandals in Spain and Portugal with teams which it has supported.
The news may cause disquiet among team owners and managers looking to secure sponsorship for their own outfits for 2011 and beyond, since it is symptomatic of the negative effect on the sport of a succession of drugs scandals that have engulfed the sport in recent years, with Contador’s case being the latest and, perhaps, the biggest.
That situation is reflected by the fact that with the disappearance of the Milram name from the peloton, there is now no German company sponsoring a team at the top level of a sport in which squads backed by the likes of T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner were once prominent.
Other than its planned name, the Portugeuse team in question is unrelated to the former Spanish ProTour team Liberty Seguros, the successor to ONCE, run by Manolo Saiz, which lost its backing from the insurance company after Saiz was implicated in Operacion Puerto. Contador was one of the team’s rider’s during its sponsorship by Liberty Seguros.
Subsequently, Liberty Seguros began sponsoring a Portugeuse team which also became embroiled in controversy after three riders failed drugs tests in 2009.
Team manager Manuel Correia was quoted by Associated Press as telling Portugal’s Jornal Ciclismo: “"I'm speechless. It's a tragic situation."
Correia expressed sympathy for riders who would be left without a team following the withdrawal of sponsorship. “Any of them could easily have found a team. They chose us, and now it will not be easy to find an alternative."
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