The OUCH-Bahati Foundation team is back to being just Bahati Foundation, and is hustling to restructure after the doping revelations and allegations by its rider Floyd Landis. Longtime Landis supporter Dr. Brent Kay is the principal behind OUCH Medical Center.
Last week Landis admitted to years of doping, and alleged that former U.S. Postal Service teammates including Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs.
OUCH sponsorship and Landis are no longer part of the team, according to a press release.
“The Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team will be moving forward without the continued support of OUCH Medical Center due to the recent turbulent media environment. We are extremely thankful to Dr. Brent Kay for his generous support and respect his decision to minimize involvement in the cycling world at this time,” the press release reads. “Also, due to the media intensive environment, the team and Floyd Landis have decided to amicably part ways. We support his courage to come forward in an effort to facilitate a drug free and fair sport.”
Riders were informed via email Thursday morning that the team was reorganizing.
“We got an email this morning saying that in light of the situation with Floyd, some of the main sponsors have backed out,” Bahati Foundation rider Jason Donald told VeloNews on Thursday.
Nathan O’Neill, another rider on the team, told VeloNews that he’d received the same email but that the news is “not as dramatic as it might sound,” adding that there is a loose reorganization plan in place.
“Right now no one has been cut, but if anybody wants to make other arrangements, they are free to fly, if they so choose,” O’Neill said.
Team director Rick Crawford told VeloNews that he was optimistic that a new set of sponsors could be solidified soon.
“We started some counter-measures about a month ago, kinda foreseeing that there was some potential for trouble on the horizon,” Crawford said. “We’re not planning on folding. We’re not going to give up. We are working 24/7 to make things happen. As director, these are my boys. I have to take care of them until the very end.”
The UCI-registered continental team began the 2010 season as Bahati Foundation, named after the non-profit organization founded by former national criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati.
Crawford said the management team of Steve Owens, Eric Smart and himself would be replaced. Owens and Bahati did not immediately return calls to VeloNews.
In March the team announced that it had signed Landis, and six weeks later the team changed its name to OUCH-Bahati Foundation to reflect funding coming from Dr. Kay.
Donald laid blame on the team’s decision to sign Landis.
“I knew from the beginning that signing Floyd was a poor decision on our part,” Donald said. “I knew immediately that was a bad decision. Floyd is looking out for himself, and that’s pretty obvious by what has happened with the team. That was never any concern of his. There’s nothing that Floyd can do or say that does anyone, anywhere, any good. It’s pretty obvious that what he was doing was going to put the team under.”
The new squad struggled with a series of setbacks. The team did not have the deepest technical support on the domestic circuit, and funding to get to races was sometimes a challenge. In April the team was informed that it was not invited to the Amgen Tour of California, and just days later one of the team’s amateur riders, Jorge Alvarado, was tragically killed in a car-bike collision.
Tension within the squad came to a head at the Joe Martin Stage Race in early May, as the team became vaguely aware of Landis’ plans.
“How has the Landis thing impacted us? You can just imagine. We were at ground zero, so the impact was profound,” Crawford said. “From the very first day, we knew he was a controversial character. But I don’t think any of us dreamed anything like this would happen. I’ve been in cycling for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I certainly didn’t expect to be in the eye of the hurricane. But here we are.”
The team has enjoyed a few successes this year, including Landis’ second-place finish at the Tour of the Battenkill and Hilton Clarke’s criterium wins at Redlands and San Dimas.
Clarke told VeloNews Thursday that he’s fully paid to date, adding that Friday is the team’s next payday and that he would wait to see how things play out before commenting further.
Cannondale marketing manager Bill Rudell said that his company had supplied the team with frames and forks several months ago, and that there had been no initiative to change that relationship following the Landis allegations.
“We’ve been a big supporter of the team,” Rudell said. “I don’t honestly know the state of the team at this point. I’ve been reaching out to management, but haven’t been able to reach them. The whole Landis thing is an unfortunate situation, and I’m not really able to comment about it other than to say that we love what the Foundation is all about. When we signed on we were excited about supporting Rahsaan, and supporting a strong domestic team, and there has since been a chain of events that has been really unfortunate. If team does go away, then they would be in breach of contract, and we’d want our stuff back.”
O’Neill acknowledged that the team’s problems were based around funding.
“It was a situation where guys were working their butts off trying to fill sponsorship holes, and at the same time there were not enough resources to support themselves,” O’Neill said. “A lot of hard work was happening for no pay. Everyone has a breaking point. They realized enough was enough. Now it’s time for someone else to come in and take the program and drive it in the right direction, hopefully with a new base of resources. Our message is that we’re working through the dilemma. I’m optimistic that we’re going to be fine, but it’s still early to talk about reorganization.”
Crawford said that at the end of the day, the team is keen to do two things — “race our bikes and do our community service. That’s what this team was founded on, and that’s what we want to continue doing.”
Brian Holcombe and Ben Delaney contributed to this story.