It’s Not about Doping

by Chikashi

The recent statement from Team Sky reaffirming their position on doping has provoked quite a bit of discussion.  Much of the discussion has been about whether Sky’s policy is effective in stamping out doping from their team or whether it is constructive in working towards a dope-free professional cycling.  Doping in professional sports is a serious topic, but the issue of doping is only incidental to Team Sky’s statement.

The essence of the statement is about brand protection.  Team Sky must ensure that, if one of their own is found to have been involved in doping, his fall will not bring down the entire house.  Of course, there is a reminder to everyone in Team Sky that doping, past or present, is not tolerated, but that is part of the brand protection exercise.  You can replace doping with any other controversial issue that may harm Team Sky’s reputation, and you will not have changed the essence of the statement.

Team Sky need to protect its brand equity by doing all it can to minimise risks of any reputational damage.  They must ensure that they have made, and, perhaps more importantly, are seen to have made, all reasonable efforts to ensure that their entire team is not associated with a damaging activity such as doping.  As far as brand protection and reputation management go, this is what one might consider standard protocol.

The question that the statement raises is, why aren’t all other pro teams doing something similar, assuming they all value their respective brand equity that they have worked hard to build over many years?  Is it because they fear that they may have very few or none remaining on their team with no immediate, comparable replacements?  A practical conundrum?

It demonstrates Team Sky’s leadership in and out of the saddle.