CYCLING; Tour may lose its sponsors

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The Independent Online
THE FRENCH newspaper Le Figaro reported yesterday that Coca-Cola and Festina, the sponsors of the Tour de France, would withdraw their backing if the event, sullied by drug scandals last year, failed to improve its image.

"When the 1999 Tour starts in two months we will assess if this event harms our image or not," the newspaper quoted Cyriac de Salaberry, Coca- Cola's communications director, as saying. For now, he said, the company had confidence in the Tour organisers.

The Spanish watchmakers Festina will continue with cycling only if the sport shakes off the current scandal, the paper said. "We will watch developments in cycling in general this year. If it changes its image, we will carry on. If not, we will reconsider our position," Festina's executive director, Gines Gorriz, was quoted.