Pasta maker Barilla won’t renew sponsor deal with Bode Miller{mosimage}One of Bode Miller’s principle sponsors said Friday it decided not to renew its contract with the 2005 World Cup overall champion.

Italian pasta maker Barilla, which signed Miller in 2003, said it has declined to pick up the option to renew the deal by the March 31 deadline. The current agreement ends July 31, 2006.

“The program with Bode was done,” Barilla representative Fabio Fortina said. “Last week we wrote to Bode’s agent Lowell Taub and said we would not pick up the option.”

Fortina did not give a reason for not extending Miller’s contract, but said Barilla generally struck three-year deals which were only rarely extended. Fortina said the company’s contract with Italian ski legend Alberto Tomba also lasted three years.

Miller last season became the first American in 22 years to win the World Cup overall title, after also claiming World Championships gold in the super G and downhill at Bormio, Italy.

“We had great results, especially last year with the World Cup and the World Championships,” Fortina said. “We had a fantastic relationship, personal and professional, with Bode, all the time.”

This season was more of a trial for Miller’s sponsors, however. Barilla stuck by Miller despite his declining results, controversial statements and high-profile party habits that were often ill-matched to the company’s family-oriented philosophy.

The 28-year-old Miller – who often gripes about excessive media attention and sponsorship obligations – became the focus of intense scrutiny this season.
He infuriated officials by calling for liberalized doping, and made headlines by suggesting in a TV interview and a men’s magazine that he had raced while under the influence of alcohol.

Miller also suggested that San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs.

One of the favorites at the Torino Olympics this winter, Miller went home empty-handed but boasted of getting to “party and socialize at an Olympic level.”

Fortina said Barilla was seeking a new star to represent its products.

“Now we are looking around,” he said. “We are evaluating other champions.”

– The Associated Press

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