- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

12:50 p.m.

ZURICH, Switzerland — Floyd Landis’ former cycling team will shut down at the end of the season.

Phonak owner Andy Rihs said today that he has been unable to find a buyer for his team since Landis, this year’s Tour de France champion, was busted for doping.

“I’ve had to do something I’ve never done in my whole life: Give up,” Rihs said.

The Swiss hearing-aid firm already had decided to pull its sponsorship because of doping issues. The American company IShares, a subsidiary of Barclays Bank, was to replace Phonak as title sponsor in 2007, but the deal was called off after Landis’ positive doping tests.

The 30-year-old Landis tested positive for an unusually high amount of testosterone after a tough Alpine stage on July 20, when he made a remarkable comeback and went on to win the Tour de France. Both his A and B samples tested positive.

Rihs said the Landis doping scandal led to the shutdown of the team.

“I am deeply disappointed because what he did was what led to this decision,” Rihs said. “I would never say this is a bad person because he played bad. I regret what he has done for him, too.”

Phonak’s image already had been damaged badly by 10 other doping cases since the Swiss-based team was started seven seasons ago.

The International Cycling Union refused to issue Phonak a racing license for 2005 because of the team’s doping record after three Phonak riders — 2004 Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Camenzind and Santi Perez — were found guilty of doping violations in 2004 and fired.

The team was allowed to race only after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled last year that Phonak should have a two-year license.

Phonak team manager John Lelangue had no answer for the unusually high number of cheating athletes within the Phonak team over the years.

“It’s all individual cases. There were old guys, young guys, experienced guys, with and without results,” Lelangue said. “There was no one common profile. It’s a very unfortunate coincidence.”

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