Rabobank pulls out of pro-cycling

Dutch lender Rabobank said it would stop sponsoring professional cycling teams at the end of this year, because it had lost faith in the ability of cycling's governing body to clean up the sport following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Rabobank's decision to end its long association with the sport follows publication of a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency last week which the Dutch bank said "spoke volumes" about the extent of the drug problem facing the sport. "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," Bert Bruggink, Rabobank board member, said in a statement.

"We are pulling out of professional cycling. It is painful. Not just for Rabobank, but especially for the enthusiasts and the cyclists who are not to blame in this," he added.

Armstrong is set to lose his record seven Tour de France titles after USADA said the American took part in and organised an elaborate, doping scheme.

The 41-year-old cancer survivor has always denied taking banned substances but has decided not to challenge the USADA charges. Nike on Wednesday ended its sponsorship of Armstrong, who also announced he was stepping down as chairman of the cancer support charity he founded.

Rabobank is the biggest sponsor in Dutch professional cycling with total sponsorship worth 15 million euros ($19.64 million) a year.

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