Updated: Tinkoff-Saxo have confirmed on Tuesday morning that team manager Bjarne Riis has been suspended from his duties with it since Sunday.
Reports in the Danish media suggested that the team’s lacklustre start to the season was likely to be a major factor in the decision by team owner Oleg Tinkov to stand Riis down.
But in a statement released this morning, the team says that the reason for the suspension of Riis from his duties is unrelated to performance or financial issues.
That will give rise to speculation that the team has taken action ahead of a report on doping in cycling following an investigation by Anti-Doping Denmark (ADD).
The statement reads as follows:
Following the rumors and speculations published by many Danish media first and then by international cycling media later last night, Tinkoff Saxo would like to clarify that Bjarne Riis is not being actively involved in the team’s activities since last Sunday. However, he was not suspended of his active role because of lack of results nor for financial issues. The team management has full confidence in the technical and performance team, in all the riders and staff members and is currently working to establish the best way forward in the racing season. No decisions have been taken and any formal and final decision on any team member – if taken – shall be communicated at the appropriate time. Until then there will be no further comments on this matter.
The website of newspaper BT rhad eported on Monday evening that Riis, who was not at Sunday's Milan-San Remo where the team’s star signing for 2015, Peter Sagan, finished fourth, has been “suspended” from his position with the team.
However, its CEO and general manager, Stefano Feltrin, declined to comment, referring the newspaper to Riis and Tinkov, neither of whom were available for comment.
Tinkov, who has been critical on social media of what he sees as a poor beginning to the current campaign, bought Riis’s stake in the team’s management company in December 2013, with the Dane staying on as general manager.
It now appears Riis's days at the helm of the team, whose registration was moved from Denmark to Russia last year, may be numbered, if not from cycling altogether with the ADD report looming.
Riis, who admitted doping in 2007 that he had doped his way to victory in the 1996 Tour de France, was stripped of the title by race organisers ASO but subsequently reinstated as winner of the race, albeit with an asterisk against his name.
In recent years, Tyler Hamilton and Michael Rasmussen, who both rode on Riis’s team when it was sponsored by CSC, claimed that the manager was aware of widespread doping among its riders.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.