Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ethical Cycling

I'm not sure where this post is going. I have a few things bouncing around in my head about cycling, racing and the moral obligations of those involved. Recently i have become enamoured with the United Healthcare Cycling team. Mostly because the hardest working super-domestique, Charlie Wegelius has joined them. But on researching the team, I learned the support the Children's Foundation charity in the USA. A charity close to my heart as this charity helped fund (via Make-a-Wish) my daughters trip to Florida to swim with Dolphins. So very quickly, United Healthcare are becomeing a favourtite because of what they stand for as an organisation. A team/company with a message.  Then, also joining UHC in the pro-continatal ranks this year and also from USA is Type 1 diabetes. No prizes what this team is trying to help promote? British cyclists can't forget the Linda McCartney team. A team of vegetarians and also the first time I saw Charlie Wegelius race. Not a brilliant message but a message none the  less. And who could forget the stunning ONCE team of the 80s and 90s. A french deaf charity and a stunning cycling team. Now, while we're on this subject we cannot overlook what Lance Armstrong did for global publicity of a charity. His Livestrong brand is recoginised the world over. Promoting orginaglly testicular cancer but now supporting cancer suffers the world over.

 Is this going to be the way cycling goes? Using the sport as a platform to push an ethical or moralistic message? I hope so.

Charity is so close to my heart. My daughter was born 10 years ago with a terminal liver disease and it is solely through the support and tireless work of the Children's Liver Disease Foundation that she got the exceptional care she received. Over the last 10 years, I have raised many thousands of pounds for this charity. I have long thought of creating a club/group to support the CLDF via cycle racing and sportives. Sadly I don't have the connections or knowledge to do so.

I do think though,  that if pro teams took a more ethical or moralistic approach like UHC or Type 1, then the sport in its self would be able to take the moral high-ground that we so often miss. We have our great champions that we all adore, but outside the sport, the world does not always hold them in such esteem because of the culture of doping. The outside world always views our champs as cheaters and dopers and thus never really capable of global domination.

But, if we all supported charities in our racing as opposed to billion dollar corporations then perhaps those racing will find it just a little harder to make the decision to cheat. Perhaps they will stop and think just a second about the child or cancer sufferer that they are helping and thus letting down by injecting poison into their bodies. Perhaps if the pro-cyclist met the people the charity supported on their shirts, such as a 13 year old boy with leukemia, then the seed is sown. Forever in the back of their mind is that child, dying. When they are alone on that mountain, perhaps they will try just a little bit harder, work a little bit harder and push themselves a little bit further for that child. This sort of image is such a motivator. Dont believe me? Ask me how i managed to run four Great North Runs on knees that forced me to give up rugby. Ask me how I managed to ride 105 miles over the Yorkshire dales with little training? Ask me how I rode the Great Yorkshire Bike Ride after seven weeks laid on the floor with a back injury. I have met these children. I have one of my own. trust me, you want motivation, meet these poorly children and they put you to shame. A sick child rarely complains and always thinks they are not that ill. It really shoves a big thorn in your heart.

In the period of global financial unrest we are experiencing currently, it could be a lifeline to many charities if more sports teams were to support charities over the big paying sponsors. I know most teams, be it cycling, football or rugby are ran as businesses and need to make a profit, but surely if the main shirt sponsor was a charitiy then the big money businesses would eagerly support the team because it would also make them look like they are willing to support others? Its a win win situation surely?

Anyways, what i want to say is, I wholly support UHC, Type 1 Diabetes and Livestrong to name a few, because they are trying to improve the lives of others. The UCI code of conduct may not work. WADA's biological passports may not work. But ethical and moral messages do seem to work. Lets support those that support others.

and good luck to all the boys and girls racing on these teams


  1. Wow... from the heart or what?!

    While not agreeing with aspects to do with *LiveStrong* (another subject altogether), entirely concur with the underlying moral obligation as you've succinctly put it.

    A blog that deserves to be read and thought about widely.


  2. I don't want to tear down this post, but UnitedHealth Group is a "billion dollar corporation"—87 billion, to be precise. Their primary goal is enriching their shareholders, not "helping others", and they do a fairly merciless job of it.

    While it is indeed a good thing that a cycling team supports a charity, I think you need to think twice about praising them when their sponsor company denies that same care to thousands of paying customers.