Cycling Through Sports, Drugs And TV Viewership

One question about Lance Armstrong and the apparent dethroning of his seven Tour de France titles: Should we still watch cycling on TV -- or, for that matter, any sport that seemingly requires a lot of effort?

Better still, should we believe or engage with those athletes who tout products or services through TV sponsorship?  Or would we rather not know?

While columnists quickly churned out stories about how sponsors -- including the likes of Nike, Anheuser-Busch InBev, 24 Hour Fitness, Radio Shack, Oakley and Trek -- are still backing Armstrong at the moment, the truth is that Armstrong hadn't been much of an on-air factor for those brands lately.

We are left with images and comments of cyclists, including those in the current Vuelta a Espana, the third-biggest three-week cycling race. We continue to watch cyclists beat up each other on the road, churning out four to six hours of physical damage. So we wonder: In such a tough sport, how do they do it day in and day out? Then we are reminded that perhaps they had help.



I'm betting this feeling doesn't leap to stars of other sports like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Ben Johnson and Marion Jones. Maybe athletes in baseball, track & field, rowing, ice hockey and even football are just naturally proficient. A little nutrition or supplement here or there is all they need.

Where does this leave TV viewers? Decades ago, you saw really big NFL players and thought of performance-enhancing drugs. But not so much in the past few years. So football is clean and cycling isn't, I guess.

The effect on sports viewers now? Baseball and football ratings are strong, track & field events during the Olympics posted big viewership, and there is more U.S. live coverage of road cycling events than ever.

We want to believe in the pure excitement, thrill – and drama -- of a big sports victory. But that is always the surface; we are just witnessing the end-results of hard training. Short of actually seeing on the TV screen athletes popping pills, or with syringes, or with testosterone patches, viewers will continue to focus on the aspects of competition they want to digest.

3 comments about "Cycling Through Sports, Drugs And TV Viewership".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, September 5, 2012 at 2:57 p.m.

    As a Giants fan, the Barry Bonds situation was a very big deal for me. This extended to Lance Armstrong. I was on the fence about "enhancements" until I heard the following quote from an anonymous major league infielder: "Look, I've got a wife and kids and a mortgage. I've also got three guys, all younger than me and all on the juice, fighting for my job. What am I supposed to do?"
    From that point on, I stopped caring about the issue.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 5, 2012 at 7:34 p.m.

    When an athlete decides that family responsibility and personal responsibility are more important than sport, then it is time to change professions like everybody else who has to do so when their jobs no longer exist. How many well paid athletes spend like there is no tomorrow and do not plan ? If athletes don't know what happens to an abused body, then there is an extreme lack of education somewhere along the line. Note too, one can be a great athlete without setting records.

  3. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, September 5, 2012 at 9:09 p.m.

    Wayne your articles are usually superb and insightful however this piece is naive - "football is clean cycling isn't, I guess"?! No guesssing required.

    Sadly there are still many world class athletes notably professionals who are "juiced" in way or another. The drivers of this phenonemon are only too clear - money. As such the ratings are one of those drivers whatever the sport and whether amateur or professional.

    By the way there is no scientific evidence against Lance Amstrong. Prolonging what is and would become an endless witch hunt surely demeens the sports administrators as much as the individual and the sport of cycling. Could it be that Lance opted out of the doping investigation process because it has become as pernicious as doping itself?

    As an Olympian it pains me to write this. Enjoy your sports viewing everyone. Most of the athletes are clean and we should be in awe of their hard work and dedication.

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