How much trouble can one cycling team have?
The Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported today that Leopard SA, the Luxembourg owner of the RadioShack Nissan Trek (RSNT) pro cycling team, is being sued. Last year, Leopard brought a state of the art catering truck on the Tour de France to feed the Leopard Trek team. The truck’s French manufacturer has gone to court seeking payment.
Last year’s Leopard Trek and Radio Shack Nissan teams merged for this year under the Radio Shack name, with Leopard SA as the team owner.
In Ekstra Bladet’s report, a team spokesman denied knowledge of a lawsuit. RSNT has no catering truck on the Tour this year. “We have no kitchen cart, and I know nothing about a lawsuit in France,” said Philippe Maertens.
This is in addition to alleged personnel issues, with three RSNT riders complaining to UCI about non payment of salaries. In addition, star riders Andy and Frank Schleck are reportedly unhappy with team manager Johan Bruyneel. Andy Schleck is sitting out the Tour after suffering a fractured pelvis.
Whatever his troubles within Radio Shack, Bruyneel also faces legal problems in the US, as the U.S. Anti Doping Agency (USADA) named him in allegations that the United States Postal Service team practiced systematic doping. Bruyneel has denied these charges, but in the meantime he’s not on the Tour de France. Although Leopard isn’t implicated in USADA’s investigation, it issued a statement reiterating its zero tolerance for doping, saying it “will take all appropriate measures, in order to guarantee its sporting integrity and the general interest of cycling.”
Team owner Flavio Becca has problems of his own. Last fall, authorities searched Becca’s house and offices as part of a fraud investigation. RSNT was not implicated. The present status of the fraud investigation is unknown.
This year’s RSNT team was viewed by some as practically a Tour de France dream team. After the first full day of racing at the Tour, Fabian Cancellara holds the yellow jersey for RSNT. It will be curious to see if he can hold it until Paris, or if the teams troubles will swallow him.