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Dominant Team Sky future in doubt as TV firm withdraws.

The future of Team Sky, which has delivered Tour de France wins for Britons Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, is in doubt after broadcaster Sky announced it will withdraw backing at the end of 2019. Team Sky was launched in January 2010 and has since amassed 322 victories, including eight Grand Tour successes.

'Team Sky will continue to race under a different name if a new backer is secured to provide funding from the beginning of 2020,' said a Team Sky statement.

Wiggins has left the Team Sky set-up to establish his own team after retiring as a rider, but Froome and Thomas are still part of its roster, with reigning Tour champion Thomas signing a new three-year deal with Team Sky in September.

Graham McWilliam, chairman of Team Sky, said it was 'the right time' to bring the broadcaster's involvement with the cycling team to an end and it had been 'our decision'.

'It's been a pleasure and a privilege to have been on the journey with Team Sky and British Cycling right from the start. Priority now is to help find new partners to take the team into the future,' he added.

This marks the beginning of the end of an era of success and scandal. Thanks to unmatched levels of financial support from their main backer, Team Sky have come to dominate their sport in recent years. But as well as being arguably the most successful current professional team in British sport, they are also the most controversial.

Sky sources tell me that the decision - taken by chief executive Jeremy Darroch - was partly influenced by the APS30bn takeover of the satellite broadcaster by media giant Comcast.

All commercial partnerships have been under review - and they insist it was not to do with the string of high-profile controversies that so damaged the team's reputation in recent years. But it is only a few months since a scathing report by a parliamentary committee concluded that Team Sky had 'crossed the ethical line' over their use of medical exemptions for banned drugs.

The team denied this, but the intrigue surrounding a mystery Jiffy bag - a medical delivery to Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2011; the inconsistencies in Sky's explanations, and the absence of medical records at a team that was known for attention to detail and 'marginal gains', were further devastating blows.

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case of his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol, but the saga did further damage to the team's standing. On the one hand, the timing is intriguing. Geraint Thomas' maiden Tour de France win was regarded as a timely PR boost after so much controversy.

But there is more to come. In February, the man at the very centre of the Jiffy bag scandal - ex-Team Sky chief medic Dr Richard Freeman - has a General Medical Council hearing when he will be asked to explain a mystery delivery of testosterone to the velodrome in 2011. Maybe Sky had simply had enough of the bad headlines, despite so many wins.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Dec 13, 2018
Words:584
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