Forget Doping—Cycling's Media Problems Are Worse

Nov 30 2010

Floyd Landis signs autographsIt’s strange, really—crafting a race strategy and timing that perfect attack doesn’t seem so different from devising a policy for dealing with the media and scheduling your tidbits to the press for maximum impact. And yet, cyclists and those involved in cycling seem to have a near-bottomless penchant for screwing it up.

Take Floyd Landis and his latest set of Postal doping allegations. Sure, they were European television interviews and mostly just expansions on previous statements, but come on, dude—Thanksgiving break? When the few people paying any attention to the news will have to make it past irresistible Black Friday newsoids to read your stuff? Why even bother?

The only explanation I can see is that ARD and France2 were booked solid two weeks ago when the US Press was bubbling with news of Novitzky’s Euro Trip, complete with all sorts of juicy, idiomatic quotes. At least Floyd can take some satisfaction that by timing his announcement at the start of the holiday shopping season, he’s forced Team RadioShack to put their single least popular t-shirt on sale. That’s hitting ‘em in the wallet, all right.

Still, I suppose even Landis could give UCI president Pat McQuaid a primmer on media relations. Here we have one of the most epic whistleblowers in the history of the sport, and of course, McQuaid is threatening to sue him. Nothing says “I’m not protecting certain riders” like suing people who make accusations against them.

Pat McQuaid and Sean KellyEven in citing the “big names that have been found positive over the years”, McQuaid points an implicit finger at himself: Contador, Rasmussen, and even Landis weren’t deposed until well after the end of a certain Texan’s dominance.

In fact, the first Grand Tour title decided by a drug positive disqualification*—the ’05 Vuelta—was also the first held after Armstrong Retirement 1.0. Some might call that suspiciously close timing, especially considering how effectively Grand Tour winners have been busted since.

No, the proper way to respond this time around is to employ a little close reading. Landis’ allegations against the UCI could very easily be taken as a “well, everybody knew there were protected riders” sort of statement, worthy of a Pope Apology along the lines of “we’re sorry Floyd feels that way”.

After all, current intel seems to suggest that the UCI will take little damage, if any, from the Armstrong investigation, and given the time frame of Landis’ allegations, any blame will be easy enough to shovel onto McQuaid’s predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.

Then again, it might be a little much to expect decent media performance from a man who violated a sporting boycott cited as one of the most effective measures against apartheid (and still claims not to regret it), declared that every nation West of the Rhine and south of the Channel is culturally part of the “mafia”, and straight-up denied to the German press (yesterday’s comments notwithstanding) that Michael Rasmussen had committed a doping offense.

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10 Responses to “Forget Doping—Cycling's Media Problems Are Worse”

  1. Cillian Kelly November 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    “the first Grand Tour title decided by a drug positive—the ‘05 Vuelta”

    Wasn’t the 1982 Vuelta decided this way also?

  2. Ryan November 30, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    I feel if we were to get into a debate I would all too easily be swayed to your side. I seem to have certain views, than I read your blog and reshape those views.

    Ever think of starting a cult or religion?

    Thanks for the great posts!

  3. Skippy November 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Great article , here is my comment to velonation

    Flandis is at it again !Crosses the line a failure and has a few drinks and on the friday the peleton lets him go up the road so he arrives first and the public thinks he has produced a result ! Well after Paris we knew what the result was !
    Taken a few years and a lot of money from people and Now he has changed his tune. Someone told him how to get on a new “gravy train”, yes it’s a new way to make money and this time he might succeed. US gov. gives a reward to those who blow the whistle and if you sling enough mud some will stick.
    Flandis is chucking mud and using the scatter gun approach and there are those who want to fulfill their own agenda so he is getting a little help along the way.
    Ridden with this non enity and Tamilton on many occasions, also met hein and the irishman and none of them would be able to lie straight in bed and i would certainly not think of turning my back on any of them.
    Sponsors must be heartly sick of seeing this saga drag on and the public at large also.

    REMEDY , 4years disqualification with reduction if Suppliers and team mates(after sentences imposed) given up and 2 years must be with ankle bracelet in the home, alternatively 2 years in general population jail not a country club setting. During the whole period total ban on working in any Sports orientated work environment, be it profi or amateur.Found to have breached these conditions then automatic additional 50% increase in the suspension.
    blogged as parrabuddy asking for this stronger action for some time and it seems that WADA & UCI may be starting to realise this is the way to go with “Sporting Fraud /Dopers” !

    Why did you choose to show pat with Sean?

  4. cosmo November 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    @Cillian Kelly: I knew I was forgetting something when I wrote that! Thanks for the catch—I’ve updated the post.

  5. Arjan Hulsebos November 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    I read McQuaid’s response to Landis’ allegations, and I had to double-check it wasn’t one of Lance Armstrong’s standard replies…

    A couple of years ago, with the troubles between the UCI and the ASO, I used to think that the UCI represented the interests of cyclists the best. Now, I’ve come close to a 180 on that…

  6. Touriste-Routier November 30, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Well Floyd never was the most media savvy…

    I wish others would point out how outwardly 2-faced McQuaid is regarding doping issues. Even if there has been no cover up, you can’t crucify the whistle blowers, no matter how poor their credibility is, especially considering how few of them there are.

  7. Hunter December 1, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    That linked-to Cycling News article about individual doping not being a focus & the use of still-in-trial drugs being more paramount is a bunch of smelly Bull crap!

    I’m surprised C.N. would print such brainless remarks from a so-called “insider”.

    (Wait, if it’s on the internet, has it really been “printed”?)

  8. Cillian Kelly December 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    No problem. Nice article, as always.

  9. cycling jerseys September 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    cyclists and those involved in cycling seem to have a near-bottomless penchant for screwing it up.

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