Following my piece on the Basque country and Valverde’s ongoing presence in the bunch, reader Alex Murray left a comment asking whether Valverde’s team sponsor had taken a stance. I was curious about this too, after all whilst the team is Spanish, Caisse d’Epargne is a a French bank and so perhaps outside the Iberian network that seems to line up behind Valverde. It’s also a savings bank and so the image of backing a potential cheat is not exactly helpful to the brand.
So I put in a call to the bank’s Paris HQ to get their view on the matter and they kindly came back. Speaking to an informed and interested PR staffer – they aren’t all this helpful – I got the house view. A lengthy chat can be reduced down to one sentence:
“We are waiting for the UCI to rule and cannot act before then.”
A part of my day job involves reading between the lines of PR statements. From the voice tone alone the Caisse man was not happy with this situation – who would be – and I suspect the bank cannot act alone, for example sack Valverde, without exposing itself to legal action. This could only drag their name through the mud, enrich lawyers and simply worsen matters.
My impression, a personal view, and not stated explicitly, is that they are very keen for the CAS, the UCI and others to come to a settled judgement, even if this means Valverde gets banned. If the authorities rule against Valverde, I wouldn’t rule out action from the sponsor, whether it is sacking Valverde or even withdrawing on the spot, presumably paying wages in full but demanding that the team does not race a day longer in its colours.
Remember, this is a sponsor that has announced its withdrawal from the sport and has little to gain from publicity, good or bad. Like I say they were kind enough to talk to me so if you don’t like guesswork, refer to the statement in quotes above and ignore my views.