In January at the official Launch of the German team at Münster-Osnabrück, Germany, Sunweb outlined their responsibilities and intentions within the sport of cycling. As one of the major investors within the sport, Sunweb has highlighted that they will be actively taking a strong stance against doping.
New culture and mindset in the sport of cycling since the implementation of the “biological passport” in 2008.
The sport of cycling is in the process of leaving its turbulent years behind and has been quite successful in implementing a new culture and mindset. The culture where a significant amount of the people from within the highest tier of the sport considered doping as regrettable, but relatively inevitable has gradually been removed. Instead, cycling’s culture today consists of people that have adapted the mind-set that for the sport to continue to display its beauty and excitement on a global scale and in order to positively increase its global impact the key requirement is to eliminate doping completely.
A key factor for cycling to achieve that gradual culture change was in 2008, with the implementation of one of the most sophisticated and extensive anti-doping programs that exists today in professional sports. Through that program, professional cycling has been recognized as an example for other sports, in terms of the unprecedented, extensive and comprehensive blood and urine testing to which all of its top tier athletes must undergo. This program had a great preventive effect with regards to the use of prohibited substances and it has proven to substantially improve the methods of detecting usage. The series of test results from each athlete make up their so-called “biological passport”, which allows their blood profiles to be monitored closely. This passport can be an important indicator of good ethics as well as any wrongdoing.
Regulation and coordination by the UCI, execution by the independent CADF
In elite cycling the international cycling federation UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) regulates and coordinates the sport’s anti-doping policy. The execution of that policy in the highest tier of cycling is largely conducted by the independent body CADF, through a program of thorough testing and monitoring through both in and out of competition anti-doping tests. The out of competition tests are performed based on the permanent whereabouts system of the riders which enables regular unannounced testing.
Sunweb invests in an additional anti-doping program and shows its extra commitment to the sport of cycling
At the very beginning of their exclusive title partnership with the team, during the 2017 Launch of Team Sunweb in January, Swiss based tour operator Sunweb made its vision on anti-doping clear. This vision is now made concrete by the additional annual investment which Sunweb is making to allow Team Sunweb to go one step further in the efforts towards a clean sport. Their investment means that the team can sign up with the CADF to implement the new additional independent anti-doping program.
Sunweb’s Chief Commercial Officer, Tim Van den Bergh, explained: “For a company investing in professional sports there are only two options with regards to anti-doping.
The first benefits from the beauty and great impact of the sport and abandons the team on the day that there is a doping case. The second option chooses not to ignore that what is the case in normal life also applies to sports: alongside all of those with good intentions, there are always a few individuals who at certain moments choose to do the wrong thing."
Tim Van den Bergh continues: "A company that takes responsibility for the sport and for the team must put efforts into protecting those who choose to do the right thing and who participate clean in sports. The best protection is to increase the efforts to detect those who perform their sport with undesirable morals in terms of doping.
Within this context, detecting a ‘positive case’ is not only something regrettable, but is at the same time a victory for clean athletes and for the sport. Our company’s fundamental view of our responsibility towards the fight against doping is to help ensure the creation of a fair playing field for athletes, which is what sport is all about. This is the priority for the future of cycling, and of any sport. Detecting those who undermine the system is a win for the sport, even if ultimately one of Team Sunweb’s own riders were ever to be detected.”
The tour operator’s vision on strengthening the credibility of the sport and enhancing the anti-doping program is a strategic corner stone of its commitment to cycling and to Team Sunweb, founded and run by the team’s CEO Iwan Spekenbrink. Tim Van den Bergh concludes that Sunweb hopes that other companies that invest in sports, and particularly in pro cycling teams, will follow in their footsteps in providing extra funding towards strengthening teams’ independent anti-doping efforts.
The urine and blood tests of this additional anti-doping program, which are made available by CADF to WorldTour and ProContinental cycling teams, are carried out on the same basis and in addition to the current CADF anti-doping program, which the riders of all WorldTour and ProContinental teams are already subject to.
The additional anti-doping program is the next step to creating a clean sport as it further intensifies the testing of the team’s athletes. Team Sunweb’s men’s WorldTour riders will participate in this additional program and the program will also foresee the testing of the team’s WorldTour women and Development riders.