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Beppu free to join RadioShack

Skil-Shimano objects to negotiations while rider still under contract

By Agence France Presse
The Skil-Shimano cycling team has agreed to annul Fumiyuki Beppu’s contract after the Japanese rider acknowledged that he had violated UCI rules in reaching a verbal agreement to join the American RadioShack team.

Beppu, a former member of the Discovery team, had a year remaining on his contract with Skil-Shimano, which debuted at the Tour de Fance last year, but nonetheless negotiated a deal to join RadioShack without informing his team.

Skil said Wednesday that the team has “agreed to annul” Beppu’s contract, but only after establishing that the rider violated UCI rules in reaching an agreement with RadioShack and forcing him to pay damages.

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Last year Fumiyuki Beppu and Yukiya Arashiro became the first Japanese riders to complete the Tour de France.

“Beppu recently reached a verbal agreement with Team RadioShack, without permission and without notifying Skil Shimano,” the team noted in a statement issued on Wednesday. “The 26-year-old has now acknowledged that he has a valid contract with Skil-Shimano and is unable to leave the team and sign a contract elsewhere without Skil-Shimano’s permission.

“This acknowledgment was a point of principle for Skil-Shimano, because an alternative reading would have undermined relations between teams and riders under contract, and existing contracts would no longer have been binding.”

Nonetheless, the team said it was willing to release Beppu from the final year of his contract since he had acknowledged the violation.

“After this principle decision … Beppu was offered the option of getting out of his contract through payment of non-negotiable compensation to his employer, bearing in mind the team is no longer confident of a continued successful relationship due to the rider’s actions a few months ago.”

Skil said it had no plans to replace Beppu, who has yet to claim a major victory in Europe. Beppu was, however, one of the first two Japanese riders to have finished the Tour de France, when he and Yukiya Arashiro (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) reached Paris at the end of the 2009 Tour.

Skil, meanwhile, said that the decision in no way detracts from the team’s mission of offering opportunities to Asian riders.

“The team will continue to focus on the current roster of riders and prepare thoroughly for the coming season,” added the statement. “The team is also confident its four remaining Asian riders will be able to make an undiminished contribution to the development and promotion of cycling in China and Japan, which is one of the goals of Skil-Shimano.”

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