The bank says it will end its 17-year sponsorship of both the men’s and women’s professional Dutch cycling teams at the end of the year (31 December). It will, however continue to sponsor amateur cycling.
Rabobank, which is the biggest backer of Dutch professional cycling with a sponsorship worth €15m (£12.2m), is pulling out of the sport because “the trust in the cycling world has gone”, following allegations from US anti-doping chiefs that Lance Armstrong was at the centre of a doping ring.
In a statement the financial firm said: “It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future.”
The Rabobank men’s team has won 23 Tour de France stage wins since the sponsorship began in 1996, most recently in 2011.
Both men’s and women’s teams said in a statement they will try to find new sponsors.
The decision comes a day after the Rabobank team confirmed that the International Cycling Union (UCI) had launched a doping case against one its riders, Carlos Barredo.
The UCI says it understood the bank’s decision “in light of the difficult period, namely the high public interest in past doping issues and perhaps a more recent action taken by the UCI against a rider of the team.”
British cyclist David Millar, who was handed a two-year suspension for doping in 2004, criticised the move, saying onTwitter: “Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from your young clean guys who are part of the solution. Sickening.”
Rabobank is the latest major sponsor to turn its back on cycling after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) branded Armstrong a “serial cheat” last week. In the past few days Armstrong has beed dropped by several of his sponsors including Nike and AB Inbev.
Industry experts have told Marketing Week that the knock-on effects of the allegations surrounding the former seven time Tour de France winner could dent the professional cycling’s ability to attract major sponsors in the future.