How to Change Cycling Culture

What’s happening in cycling right nowCycling Ascents

So the whole USADA Lance Armstrong exposure thing is a pretty big deal right now, not only in cycling, but also in the global media.  The USADA have done an amazing thing for cycling, and it’s great to see that others, and not just those who have been caught are adding their voice too.  Jonathan Vaughters, Paul Kimmage, Bike Pure, David Millar, the @UCI_Overlord (Not Pat McQuaid), and Michael Ashenden for example have all been fighting their own battles in parallel to the USADA,  and helping the cause of clean cycling.  But there are many, many, more within cycling who are keeping quiet, or some who are trotting out some pretty pointless or just incorrect statements about the whole thing. 

Andy Schleck’s (and others’) comments…”move on and look to the future of cycling”

Take Andy Schleck for example, reportedly telling L’Equipe:

“The former US postal riders talk of a reality which I think is behind us now.  The problem in cycling is that we have to find some kind of serenity again in order to move on”

The problem I have with what Andy is saying (which I think boils down to “I’d really rather not talk about this”), is that if we just follow his advice and get all ‘serene’ about it then nothing will have changed.  The reason for this is that you can’t expect anything to change if you don’t do something different, but just march blindly on.  So if that means that in 10 years’ time,  someone like the USADA will catch the next big drug cheat, once they’ve pretty much bent the entire cycling community to their will for the past decade, then I’m not buying.   I get my view that the cheaters are undoubtedly still out there from Michael Ashenden, an anti-doping expert who used to work with the UCI on the biological passport.  And he should know.

The future without change….Cycling culture

So why are the majority of those within cycling keeping quiet?  It can only be that there is still a big risk in telling the truth – it can’t be fear of Armstrong and his lawyers, as was probably the case until fairly recently.  So it must be another authority in cycling – which only leaves the UCI.  Of course that’s not to forget the effect of Omerta – which has its basis in the fact that so many within cycling are tangled up one way or another in this drugs issue that it self-perpetuates, and those who speak out are punished ultimately by their own, the complicit cycling community.  It’s weakening though – it just needs a critical mass of respected people to speak out and it will all come tumbling down.

How change works

So, how do we ( I mean the cycling fans, of whom I am one) encourage those within cycling to speak out too?  Well, it might help here to understand how change works.  I used to work in Quality Management (no, please don’t stop reading…I promise I’ll be brief), and it’s pretty vital in that sector to not only to help change happen in order to make improvements but also to understand how to do it effectively, so you don’t end up making things worse.

There are many experts in this field, but here is my take on the required steps to make change happen:

1)      Acknowledge the problem

2)      Take responsibility/commit to the change

3)      Do something about it (make the change)

4)      Keep doing it (because big changes won’t happen overnight)

5)      During steps 3 & 4, tell everyone about the change and the benefits of doing so.

What we can do

I think that even though not many are publicly stating it, I’d like to think that most within cycling have managed step 1).  Due to the risk, however, they’ll probably need help in taking the next few steps (which is not at all unusual – in fact it’s quite normal, and it also happens to be the basis of how the whole Omerta thing works in cycling).

So how can we help those within cycling?  Well I think that the best thing is to use our power of numbers.  There’s only 1 UCI, there are probably a few hundred top level pro cyclists, perhaps a few thousand working in pro cycling teams but there are millions of us cycling fans.   And the easiest way to take action? (and let’s face it, the easier it is the more likely you are to do it) – social media.

Tweet to people, write something and stick it on your Facebook page, write a blog (like me).  The more organised, the better – I’m only a tiny squeak in the maelstrom of the internet so I hope you guys will back me up on this and write a better version of this, or perhaps you could forward this article to your cycling mates.

Ask for the same thing – that those within cycling come clean (resulting in dramatic changes to the UCI).  That doesn’t have to mean asking people to own up to doing drugs (to be honest the serious drug offenders are not likely to listen to you or I) but at least publicly acknowledging the problem that has always been there and that something big has to change to stop it happening again.  The more voices (hopefully encouraging a few with authority) that come out with the same message, the more likely it is to happen.  It just has to gain a bit of momentum.

Why we need to do it

Who are UCI accountable to? The answer is probably ‘no-one’.  They won’t remove themselves, so we need to take this opportunity started by the USADA and run with it.  The media attention is here and now, so don’t hang about; this is our opportunity.  If you are a cycling fan, and you are willing to take responsibility, then you should act now.

What’s the benefit?

Imagine if 5 years from now you could watch a race on TV without having doubts about the great performance you had just seen.  Imagine talking to strangers and them not saying (when you reveal you are cycling mad), “Oh, they’re all on drugs aren’t they?”.  Imagine if Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen were just a bad memory, and the UCI were full of truthful enthusiasts, putting the good of cycling before anything else (o.k. maybe I’m getting a little carried away now, but Pat and Hein have got to go at least.  Probably some of the top guys in other institutions too by the sound of it, such as Cycling Australia).


So, don’t forget – take your own action: forward this article or another like it, write your own – make your voice heard however you can.   Ask for a change in cycling – insiders to tell the truth and that we need a change at the top of the UCI to bring back some impartiality.   And do it quick before this subject drops out of the world’s attention and those in charge of cycling sweep it under the rug like they did for the Festina affair, Puerto…

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