Shimano Takes Stand on Doping

Tour de France 2009 Stage 19 Aubanas
In a move most unusual for the bike industry, the world’s largest component manufacturer, better known as Shimano, has announced a policy regarding doping by athletes and teams it sponsors.

Until now there has been an expectation that so goes the team, so goes the bike industry sponsor. As evidenced by comments on this and other blogs, at least some members of the cycling public have viewed a bike sponsor’s lack of repudiation of the team of a convicted doper as a tacit approval of their doping.

Unfortunately, a sponsor such as Trek hasn’t got the ability to elect to sponsor, say, Formula 1 if they decide cycling is just too tarnished by doping. Liberty Seguros’ next sponsorship stop in sports could be golf, but that’s not possible for Specialized or SRAM.

Faust could appreciate such a dilemma.

So Shimano has announced that it will pull its sponsorship of a team if anyone in its management is found to be guiding a doping program for its riders. If a rider is caught doping, Shimano wants an explanation and a future containment plan to prevent a repeat. A second event is grounds for termination of the sponsorship.

Termination would be catastrophic to any team. A return of all Shimano equipment would leave riders unable to train or race until new equipment could be purchased, which could easily take a week or more and could cost upwards of six figures, an amount few ProTour teams (and no Pro Continental or Continental teams) would have lying around.

But let’s be real. While it is possible and maybe even likely that some directors have at least suspicions—if not outright knowledge—of his team members’ activities, the Festina Affair ended any large-scale participation by team management in its riders’ doping. We now have plausible deniability.

Unfortunately, a complete lack of knowledge of riders’ medical programs has a nasty consequence: the director appears clueless. Hans-Michael Holczer’s shock over Bernard Kohl’s and Stefan Schumacher’s positive tests made him look ineffectual.

But what of positive tests by individual riders? The number of teams that have had more than one positive inside of three months is perhaps surprising. Just yesterday the UCI announced the suspension of three riders (three!) riders from Liberty Seguros. Saunier Duval, Phonak and Astana are but three other names that come to mind.

The question is whether Shimano would actually revoke the sponsorship should the possibility come to pass and which teams are actually threatened by such action. Columbia-HTC, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Garmin-Slipstream, Rabobank and Skil-Shimano are the ProTour and Pro Continental teams Shimano sponsors. Of these, two (Euskaltel and Rabobank) have had high-profile doping issues in the last few seasons.

While it is fairly certain that most bike industry sponsors have some language in their contracts that allow the termination of a sponsorship as a result of a doping offense, Shimano is unusual in taking such a public stand. Perhaps other companies will have the courage to take a similar stand.

Shimano’s Statement in full:

With this statement, Shimano would like to make clear to all parties involved that we would like to strive for a fair and drugs free sport to protect the future of cycling for next generations. Besides the bad impact to the reputation of the sport, we all know Doping and Drugs are damaging and destroying the health and image of especially young people in and outside of the sport. Therefore we are taking a firm stand against doping in general and in the cycling sport in particular.

Basic guidelines in Shimano’s anti doping policy:

• All our contracts and sponsorship-relations are made under the condition and in the belief that there is no doping involved in the particular team or with the individual athletes.

• If the team management of one of our sponsored teams (no matter in which cycling discipline) is involved in any doping affair, we will stop our sponsorship of this team immediately.

• If an individual rider is involved in any doping affair without the knowledge of the team management, the team will be given the chance to give a clear explanation and a future improvement & control plan to Shimano, upon that it will be decided to continue the sponsoring or not. If another doping incident occurs within the same team, we will keep the option of terminating our sponsorship contract

• Terminating a sponsorship contract means return of all Shimano materials or other contributions that have been supplied to the concerned team immediately. This anti doping policy is already stated in our ongoing sponsorship contracts but Shimano feels it is valuable to emphasize this ones more to make it clear for everybody what is our opinion about the use of doping in sport. For all our future sponsorship negotiations it is essential for us that the teams show us their anti doping policy in advance.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Larry T.

    “the Festina Affair ended any large-scale participation by team management in its riders’ doping” Really? Of course one can’t prove a negative but it’s curious that many members of the same squad got nabbed around the same time like say, T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner and Saunier Duval along with these latest guys from Liberty. And the earlier Liberty/Saiz affair was post-Festina. On this subject I find it interesting to think how many riders from a big-time squad (one that won more than 5 Tours de France)who, after leaving said team, later got nabbed for doping? None of ’em ever got caught while with that team, but does this mean they started doping only after they moved on or does it suggest their former team had a more organized program that went undetected? I commend Shimano for taking their stand and hope it helps in the anti-doping battle but until using one’s own stored blood is detectable, cycling will be contested between the cunning, well-financed and organized transfusers vs the not-so-cunning, not-so-well-financed riders who resort to chemical means of manipulating their blood vs the guys who are doing it clean.
    Sadly, we’ll probably never know with any certainty who is in which category since non-doping is pretty tough to prove.

  2. Trev

    Yeah..I wonder why all the Postal/disco racers that left never got caught before that. My money is on the more highly organized program- either better drugs, techniques, or more money available to pay off testers. Remember that guy Floyd? His suspension is over. I haven’t seen much of that guy.

    My hats off to shimano. but why didn’t they take a stand when the team in question was using there parts? thats kind of telling in and of itself.

  3. Guy

    My Q. is: What if the team offers to buy the shimano products that they’re supposed to return? What if they ask for Shimano products from local suppliers/importers in exchange for personal appearances, endorsements or whatever? Few companies or retailers would refuse a team from the Pro Tour would they? Shimano can’t stop anyone who has obtained their products from other sources using their gear can they?

    1. Author

      Guy: I think the point is the inconvenience of returning the equipment. As for appearances and endorsements for smaller suppliers, they simply can’t weather the cost involved in supplying that many groups. It’s unbelievably expensive even to supply a Pro Continental team. Shimano doesn’t wish to stop such a team from using their stuff; they just won’t give it to them.

  4. jfo-ny

    RE: Trev “Yeah..I wonder why all the Postal/disco racers that left never got caught before that.”

    Easy to say the negative but consider the opposite: those riders went to another team to be the leader, to deliver the goods, based simply on their efforts as ‘super domestique’ but not as a winner/leader. When the goods were not forthcoming said rider resorted to doping to save career/face… Not having expertise (and testing getting better, more prevalent) in doping leads to getting caught. Seems more reasonable than “postal/disco/astana have the magic doping secret of how to never get caught”. Just ask Gusev, and no, I’m far from a Lance disco postal fan. Very far.

  5. Trev

    jfo-ny: I understand and agree mostly with what you are saying except for how you say it seems MORE resonable. I think it still seems more resonable that Disco/Astana has the expertise and money to evade detection or pay off those involved. I think if you add up all the other evindence pointed towards Disco/Astana you would be naive to give them the benefit of the doubt. Just my 2 cents.

  6. bikesgonewild

    …interesting how every bloody discussion immediately devolves into “what lance did or didn’t do”

    …while i’ve never been a big shimano fan due to old business policies they used to insist upon (their stuff certainly works great), i totally applaud the fact that they’ve shown the initiative to man up, voice their opinion & take a strong stand against doping…

    …will it have any actual effect ???…dunno but it’s a start from a major player in this beautiful sport…kudos, shimano & i hope you influence other sponsors in this sport to do the same…

  7. Da Robot

    This can only be good. The dopers are being squeezed. The peloton has seen what happened to DiLuca, to Basso, They’ve seen teams like Garmin winning transparently. Katusha has written doping prohibitions into their rider contracts. Now Shimano is stepping up.

    With the exception of Valverde, who I wrote about in this space last week, it seems it’s getting harder and harder to dope.

    We’re moving in the right direction.

  8. the kid

    Hey, I know Floyd is one of those guys that came back after his doping suspension and hasn’t done much. But the guy did also get a hip replacement too… There are a lot of guys who have come back after doping and done well- Wiggins for one.

  9. Rich Sfs

    Wiggins, doping offence, are you serious! I have never heard anything around him re doping. You might be getting confused with the Malta kid, Mr David Millar. I’d like to see some facts to back up the claim. To use jfo-ny says: phrase “I am no Wiggo fan, or a Garmin fan” but I do like the Argyle.

    On the Shimano front: For me there is two sides to the coin. 1. Peer/media pressure syndrome of being seen to not advocate doping. We could talk all day on that one. 2. Brand damage limitation. Not knowing anyone at the top in Shimano it is difficult to say what the motives are.

    FYI Sram did pull sponsorship from Saunier Duval when caught with it’s pants down. Cycling fans have been damaged because trying to be hopefull of the future while dealing with the present can still produce a lot of tears and heartache.

  10. Author

    The Kid: Rich Sfs is right; Wiggins hasn’t been popped for doping. Millar was. Doping is a serious allegation and it’s important to keep our facts straight.

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