UPDATE 1-Rabobank ends sponsorship of professional cycling

Fri Oct 19, 2012 3:38am EDT

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AMSTERDAM Oct 19 (Reuters) - Dutch lender Rabobank said it will end its sponsorship of men's and women's professional cycling teams at the end of this year as the repercussions of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal continued to reverberate around the world.

In a nation obsessed with cycling, whether amateur or professional, Rabobank has long been associated with sponsorship of the sport.

It is the biggest sponsor for Dutch professional cycling with a total sponsorship deal worth 15 million euros ($19.64 million) a year. The Rabobank cycling team has participated in every single Tour de France since 1984.

The decision follows publication of a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) last week, which Rabobank said "spoke volumes".

Retired champion cyclist Armstrong is set to lose his record seven Tour de France titles after USADA said the American took part in and organised an elaborate, sophisticated doping scheme on his way to his unrivalled success.

"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.

"Cycling is a beautiful sport, which millions of Dutch people enjoy and a large number of those Dutch people are clients of Rabobank. But our decision stands: 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." ($1 = 0.7638 euros) (Reporting by Sara Webb and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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