International Cycling Union: 3 EPIC Failures

This week the International Cycling Union stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles as a result of their investigation into his use of performance enhancing drugs.

While I am sure they feel quite good about their pursuit of “justice” allow me to point out the ways in which this is an epic, epic failure.

1. The failed their Purpose
Professional sports organizations are in the entertainment industry. They may indeed promote healthy exercise and provide competitive outlets for a small group of elite folks but at the very core of what they do they are there to entertain. Bicycle racing is a fringe sport at best, not nearly the following of the three biggies, football, baseball and basketball, not any where close to international sports like Soccer, not even approaching NASCAR in terms of popularity, mind-share, or revenue.

The biggest thing that has happened in the world of cycling in the last decade was Lance Armstrong. He put them on the map of sport. He brought them a larger audience. He added entertainment value beyond what they could have hoped.

And this is the thanks they give him.

When you fail at your purpose you risk becoming irrelevant.

2. They failed at Parity
Of course there is an argument that says we don’t want cheaters to win. That has been the argument that has fueled the pursuit of Armstrong even though he passed all the required drug tests when he was competing. So let me ask this:

What if they found out that EVERYONE in the races was taking performance enhancing drugs? Is it really cheating then?

In an article in the New York Times, Travis Tygart, chief exec of the US anti-doping agency said, there was still more to do to clean up cycling because there were “many more details of doping that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors, and the omerta has not yet been fully broken.”

If that is the admitted case why aren’t they still looking at ALL the competitor’s blood samples? You can’t hide behind fairness and parity when you only go after a select few people. There are probably hundreds of competitors who will remain on the record as Tour finishers who cheated just as badly but didn’t win.

When you fail to adhere to your own trumpeted standards you risk becoming irrelevant.

3. They failed their Patrons
I may be alone in this but as a member of the viewing public I am not happily cheering for the pursuit of pushing doping out of cycling. I only got interested in it the entertainment value of the sport because of Lance’s pursuits. I don’t care that they’ve finally “proven” he used drugs.

They’ve lost me as a customer.

Not because of the scandal’s, not because of any supposed taint on fairness, but because they taken the guy who made them all the money and tossed him under the bus in some sort of holier-than-thou crusade. They’ve put the sport ahead of the consumer. They’ve tried to reconfigure their “product” right out there in the eyes of the viewing public and in my humble opinion they’ve screwed up the product as a result.

When you fail at understanding the customer you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Simply put, for me as a customer, the world of professional cycling has become irrelevant once again. Lance brought them to my attention and I watched even after he finished competing but this latest round of circus performances has turned me off completely and I doubt they’ll get me back.

Where has you seen other businesses fall prey to these kinds of failures?

5 responses to “International Cycling Union: 3 EPIC Failures

  1. You have put in words what I have thought. My struggle has teetered on the truth of what you have said and the need to punish cheating no matter how skilled a person is at it. Maybe the cycling union should have simply put an asterisk next to his name and left it at that? Then begin beefing up their testing procedures.

    Since cheating is a huge character flaw how does Tiger Woods’ character flaw and his sport relate to Armstrong’s situation? Would your points for Armstrong be true in Woods case?

    • Great question Tom. Tiger’s “failure” was outside his sport. He definitely damaged his personal brand though. In that regard if his brand had been more along the lines of a Dennis Rodman, who was a complete freak show off the basketball court, then his fall would not have been so far or so fast. In fact that kind of thing would have been somewhat expected.

      Tiger’s brand, fair or not, went beyond just the golf course.

      In terms of how that relates to my three failures on the post that would be under the heading of the second one…failing to adhere to what you at least seem to promote.

  2. Hey, Curt!
    I completely agree with everything you said, except one statement: “They’ve put the sport ahead of the consumer.” I don’t completely disagree with you on this, but since the consumer began to be the focus of professional sports, the sports have ceased to be sports. Broadcasting contracts have driven player unions to threaten striking, and their highly paid agents push for more money. Player salaries are completely out of parity with real professions who actually add value to society (I’m not saying entertainment has no value, but I can’t say society is really all that much better because of what we used to call a “game”). As a result, ticket and concessions pricing have made it almost impossible for an average family to go to games with any regularity or, in many cases, at all. I long for the days when sports were at least what I remember as pure, like when we were kids, before all the drug abuse, high prices, and idolization of those who are playing games. It probably wasn’t as pure as I thought it was, but it was sure a lot better than it is now. [end of rant! ;-)]

    • That’s the interesting bit though Greg. Without the consumer the sport is just a bunch of guys out for a bike ride. While I completely agree that the salaries have gotten way out of hand the consumer is still willing to pay…ah the joys of a free market economy

      • Yes, without the consumer, fringe sports have a limited, perhaps even what one would call a cult following. Mainstream sports seemingly did fine, though. I don’t recall any team stuggling to exist back when we were kids, but many are now, and that’s with high ticket prices. Ah, well. Even though there are issues with our free market economy, I feel blessed to live within it and know that it will eventually right itself (if not over-manipulated).

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